I don’t usually cover politics. I prefer to write about people and things that change the culture. Spring means commencement speeches, and often politicians pop up to give them, including Vice President Mike Pence.
I love following college graduations because they offer a rare snap shot into what’s trending as graduates have one last chance to be outspoken before settling into real life. This year, I took note of LGBTQ rights when many students and faculty members at Taylor University, a Christian college, walked out on Pence minutes before his speech. The Christian part surprised me, the Millennial part did not.
The data show the rising citizenry will be much more attuned to LGBTQ issues than previous generations. According to University of Chicago’s GenForward project, approximately 14% of Millennials identify as something other than straight/heterosexual. Larger percentages of Latinx Millennials (22%) identify as LGBTQ compared with African Americans (14%), whites (13%), and Asian Americans (9%). More importantly, the same study also revealed that support for LGBTQ freedoms is a galvanizing topic among Millennials across all identities.
It’s no secret that far right conservatives in America have turned a blind eye to the rising tide of young people willing to organize, speak out, and vote in large numbers for pro-LGBTQ policies and politicians. It makes me wonder. How can a campaign win based on a platform that derides queer culture and throws stones despite its own glass house? Especially when that house is the White House.
Let’s go there.
Hoosiers are known to still whisper about Pence’s alleged gay activity on the summer beaches of Lake Michigan along the northern lip of Indiana. But once his career as a conservative Christian politician got traction, Pence submitted to controversial gay conversion therapy.
Afterwards, Mike Pence waged war against the queer community in Indiana. As governor he advocated using government funds to make the conversion therapy broadly available. He went on to campaign vigorously against equal rights for LGBTQ citizens.
This weekend, as I followed the Twitter feed of Taylor University grads and faculty members who made their displeasure known by walking out right before Pence took the stage, it was clear they weren’t buying it. According to the Indianapolis Star, faculty members voted 61-49 against the decision to invite Pence in the first place.
We are at a moment in our national consciousness, when some people are beginning to identify with a deeper set of American values. Namely, truth-telling over hypocrisy, the equal right to love and marry, and the like. Consider that Donald Trump’s own dubious morality threatens to undo three decades of success by the Christian Coalition’s coast-to-coast franchise. The result: Christians are starting to bolt.
Mike Pence might not be terribly convincing as a reformed gay man. Surely he makes matters worse for himself by seeking to snuff out gay identity in others—methinks he doth protest too much. It’s as if he’s kicked open his own closet door, turned the lights on, and prays we won’t notice where he’s coming from.
Well, the graduates at Taylor University took note. That’s a big deal.
It’s hard for me to imagine that Pence’s stance on LGBTQ issues has a basis in the teachings of Jesus Christ. But hey, I’m a Catholic with a classically weak grasp of gospel truths. So, okay, let’s say it does. That position hardly makes Pence an outlier among Christian conservatives.
It just makes him pretty unelectable among Millennials.
PHOTO CREDIT: Taylor University https://www.facebook.com/tayloruniversity/photos/pcb.10157480961473648/10157480961023648/?type=3&theater