Former Vice President Mike Pence echoed the words of Jesus and told a gathering of college students and supporters last week he would love a family member who came out as gay.
Speaking April 12 at the University of Virginia, Pence acknowledged his differences with the LGBT community on the issue of same-sex marriage and religious liberty, but said he is driven by his faith to love those who believe differently from him.
During a question-and-answer session, Pence was asked how he would respond if “one of your children came out to you as gay.”
The question drew applause, as did Pence’s answer.
“I’d look them in the eye and tell them ‘I love you,’” he responded before addressing the individual who asked the question. “... If we got to know each other, you'd know the Pences – we love everybody. We treat everybody the way we want to be treated.”
Pence then turned to the issue of same-sex marriage, noting that former Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy believed that same-sex marriage and religious liberty can co-exist. Kennedy wrote the decision that legalized same-sex marriage – yet in that same opinion noted that the “First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths.”
“It must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines,” Kennedy wrote, “may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned.”
The two sides of same-sex marriage should have “an open and searching debate,” Kennedy wrote.
Kennedy believed “this decision will likely create an intersection and a tension between people in same-sex relationships and people in the exercise of their religious liberty,” Pence said.
“And we've been on this debate now for roughly seven years in the country,” Pence said, paraphrasing the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law abridging the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
"The way forward in this country – although I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman, I believe in traditional marriage, and I believe marriage was ordained by God and instituted in the law – but we live in a pluralistic society,” Pence said, “and the way we go forward, and the way we come together as a country united, I believe is when we respect your right to believe and my right to believe what we believe.”
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Ethan Miller/Staff
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.