Vice President Pence speaks to troops in a hangar at Bagram air base in Afghanistan on Dec. 21. (Mandel Ngan/Pool, via AP)
Vice President Pence arrived in Aspen, Colo., this week for a holiday vacation — but not without encountering a silent protest from his neighbors in the liberal ski resort town.
“Make America Gay Again,” reads a rainbow banner posted on the stone pillars at the end of the driveway of the home where Pence and his wife, Karen, are staying.
A dispatcher with the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office referred The Washington Post to the White House press office Saturday, but sheriff’s deputy Michael Buglione told the Aspen Times that Pence’s next-door neighbors posted the banners shortly after the vice president and his family arrived on Tuesday. In an email to the Aspen Times, Shannon Slade said she is a girlfriend of one of the daughters of the couple living in the house, and that they posted the banner.
LGBT advocates have previously showed their opposition to Pence.
In December, residents in the affluent Washington neighborhood of Chevy Chase hoisted rainbow flags outside their homes following news that Pence, then newly elected, would live there temporarily before moving to the vice president’s residence at the Naval Observatory.
Protesters showed up the following month, dancing their way through the neighborhood and to the house Pence had rented ahead of the inauguration.
Pence, who has often described himself as “a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order,” has a long history of opposing same-sex marriage and other policies that provide equal protections to members of the LGBT community.
As Indiana governor, a position he held before he was tapped as President Trump’s running mate, Pence signed into law a controversial legislation that advocates said would allow businesses to discriminate against members of the LGBT community. The national uproar over the divisive bill, called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA, prompted Indiana legislators to modify it by adding anti-discrimination protections. But those only applied in cities, some of which are the most liberal in the state, where such protections already exist locally.
A paragraph on Pence’s campaign website when he ran for Congress in 2000 fueled speculations that he is an advocate of conversion therapy, a practice of trying to change someone’s sexual orientation that is banned in several states and discredited by medical organizations.
Pence said on his website that federal dollars should not go to organizations “that celebrate and encourage types of behaviors that facilitate the spreading of the HIV virus” and funds should, instead, be given to “institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.”
Pence’s spokesman, Mark Lotter, told the New York Times last year that the vice president does not support conversion therapy, and that his campaign statement was misinterpreted.
In Congress, where he was a member from 2001 to 2013 before becoming Indiana governor, Pence described traditional marriage as the institution “that forms the backbone of our society.” Citing a Harvard University sociologist during a speech on the House floor, he said, “societal collapse was always brought about following an advent of the deterioration of marriage and family.”
In 2007, Pence spoke against a bill that would protect gays and lesbians from discrimination in the workplace.
“If an employee keeps a Bible in his or her cubicle, if an employee displays a Bible verse on their desk, that employee could be claimed by a homosexual colleague to be creating a hostile work environment,” he said on the House floor.
Pence opposed 2009 legislation that would expand federal hate-crime statutes to include protections based on gender, disability and sexual orientation. Pence said on the House floor that he feared the bill “could have a chilling effect on the religious expression and religious freedom of millions of Americans.”
The New Yorker reported in October that Trump mocked Pence’s religious and socially conservative beliefs and joked that the vice president wants to “hang” gays. Pence’s press secretary, Alyssa Farah, said in a statement to The Post that the lengthy piece with the headline, “The Danger of President Pence,” is “unsubstantiated” and filled with “untrue and offensive” claims.
In Aspen, the banner didn’t seem to cause tension.
Buglione, the sheriff’s deputy, told the Aspen Times that the Secret Service agents were not bothered by the banner and were cordial with the residents who posted it.
Aspen is the county seat of Pitkin, where Hillary Clinton defeated Trump by a significant margin: 69.7 percent to 24.3 percent. Clinton won Colorado with a nearly 3 percent lead. The state went to Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012.
Derek Hawkins contributed to this story.