The Irish prime minister, Leo Varadkar, who is gay, brought his partner to a meeting on Thursday with the US vice-president, Mike Pence, a conservative Christian once dubbed “the face of anti-LGBTQ hate in America”.
Varadkar, who is in Washington this week to reaffirm the longstanding shared history between the two countries, brought his partner, Matt Barrett, to a St Patrick’s Day breakfast at the vice-presidential residence at the Naval Observatory.
Varadkar tweeted that he and Barrett had received a “warm reception” at Pence’s home, but in pointed remarks to Pence and gathered media, he also called out various forms of discrimination.
“I lived in a country where if I’d tried to be myself at the time, it would have ended up breaking laws,” he said. “But today, that is all changed. I stand here, leader of my country, flawed and human, but judged by my political actions, and not by my sexual orientation, my skin tone, gender or religious beliefs.”
Vice President Mike Pence invited me and Matt to his home at the Naval Observatory this morning. It’s great to be back here for a really warm reception. pic.twitter.com/Wkh2Ic8lWP— Leo Varadkar (@campaignforleo) March 14, 2019
Pence’s history of anti-LGBT stances during his time in office as a congressman and governor of Indiana and throughout much of his life has been well documented, so much so that Trump once joked about the hatred as if it was no big secret. During a conversation on gay rights with legal scholars, Trump once interrupted and gestured to Pence, saying, “Don’t ask that guy – he wants to hang them all!” according to the New Yorker.
Pence’s anti-LGBT bona fides include supporting so-called conversion therapy, to signing a religious freedom bill that would have worked as a license to discriminate against gay people. More recently his wife Karen Pence came under fire for teaching at a Christian school with policies of banning LGBT teachers and students.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and his partner, Matt Barrett, arriving for breakfast here at the US Vice President Mike Pence’s residence in Washington. Quite a significant moment... pic.twitter.com/WRZaUwkAuH— Shane Beatty (@ShaneBeattyNews) March 14, 2019
Last year, when they met for the first time, Varadkar said the Pence family “were very well briefed” on what to expect, and had offered a welcome in their home any time, a promise that they made good on Thursday. Pence introduced the couple to his own mother, whose parents were born in Ireland.
In a meeting with Donald Trump on Wednesday, the president noted that he and Varadkar had become fast friends.