Two white, straight, cisgender establishment politicians having what is likely to be a civil discussion doesn’t typically make for a memorable debate. But Tuesday night’s head-to-head between Democratic Virginia senator Tim Kaine and intensely homophobic (not to mention misogynstic, transphobic, and xenophobic) Indiana governor Mike Pence is not part of a typical election. Kaine is, of course, running alongside Hillary Clinton, while Pence has hitched his wagon to roving Republican disaster Donald Trump.
Kaine is known as an affable center-left Democrat; a committed Catholic who stands by marriage equality and reproductive rights; he also supports stronger gun controls and renewable energy. And Pence? Well, he signed into law a “religious freedom” bill (aka the “Turn Away the Gays” bill) just last year — legislation that legalized discrimination against LGBT people until the governor was forced to “fix” discriminatory language in the legislation after intense scrutiny.
If moderator Elaine Quijano of CBS News doesn’t confront Pence on his stance regarding LGBT discrimination, Kaine must. “If Indiana didn’t take such a big financial hit after you passed your ‘RFRA’ law, would you still have ‘fixed’ it?” would be a strong question from Quijano. Kaine could be more direct and say, “Hillary and I don’t believe there’s a legal right to turn away an LGBT person from a business, but my opponent and his running mate do.”
While many of us feel like we can breathe easy now that marriage equality is now law, both Pence and Trump have promised to reverse last year’s Supreme Court decision. The twosome have vowed to put neo-con idealogues on the high court who will welcome a challenge to same-sex marriage and undo what was done by a very narrow margin in 2015. Either Quijano or Kaine needs to ask Pence if he’s comfortable putting LGBT families through that and what kind of message that sends to same-sex couples and their children. Could Pence look a child straight in her face and tell her that her parents’ marriage is less than his?
Speaking of looking someone straight in the face, Pence must be asked how he can justify running alongside one of the most divisive, xenophobic candidates this country has ever produced. Does the Indiana governor support Trump’s descriptions of women and minorities? Does he support his running mate’s continued attacks on Rosie O’Donnell and Alicia Machado?
There are other issues Pence must answer to, including his history of transphobia (he’s being sued over an Indiana law that bans trans immigrants from receiving appropriate government identification), racism (he refused to call former Ku Klux Klan member and current senate candidate David Duke “deplorable”), and Islamaphobia (he’s tried to keep Syrian refugees out of Indiana but just lost a federal lawsuit that said he was discriminating on the basis of nationality). What’s Pence’s solution to the ills of not only urban African-Americans, but Latinos? Where does he stand on policing and the Black Lives Matter movement? Pence may want to ignore these subjects, but Kaine and Quijano must confront him.
“Donald Trump’s warped vision for America puts Mike Pence — the face of modern day discrimination — a heartbeat away from the presidency,” Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin said in a statement. “Pence is nationally known for targeting Hoosiers so they could be denied service because of who they are or whom they love. We cannot allow Mike Pence and Donald Trump to ‘Take America Backward Again.’”
The debate, airing from Virginia’s Longwood University, begins at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT. Check back on Advocate.com to stream the debate live.