Varadkar says sexuality should not be an issue in front of Mike PenceMarch 14, 2019
‘Don’t judge people for their sexual orientation’: Irish premier Leo Varadkar delivers pointed speech in front of ‘anti-gay’ US vice president Mike Pence as he becomes first leader to bring same sex partner to Trump’s DC
- Varadkar met Pence and his sister at the Vice President’s residence on Thursday
- Irish leader brought his partner and said he was grateful to be able to be himself
- Pence is an outspoken opponent of same sex marriage and transgender rights
- His wife Karen is under fire for teaching at a school that bans homosexuality
Irish premier Leo Varadkar today said gay people should not be judged by their sexual orientation in a pointed speech before US Vice President Mike Pence.
Mr Varadkar, who is one of just three gay world leaders, made the comments during a meeting at the Washington residence of Mr Pence, a vocal opponent of same-sex marriage.
Standing alongside his partner Dr Matt Barrett, the Irish Taoiseach posed for photographs with the Vice President and his sister Anne on Thursday morning.
Mr Pence’s wife Karen, who earlier this year drew criticism for teaching at a Virginia school that bars staff from condoning ‘homosexual or lesbian sexuality activity’ and ‘transgender identity’, was not present.
Mr Varadkar said in front of the U.S Vice President that he was grateful to be judged not by his sexual orientation, skin tone, gender or religious beliefs in his role as Irish premier
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (left), who is on an official visit to the United States, is accompanied by his partner Matt Barrett (right) as he stands in a group photograph with the US Vice President Mike Pence (second right) and the VP’s sister Anne Pence Poynter at the VP’s official residence in Washington DC
Matt Barrett (right), the partner of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, with the US Vice President Mike Pence (left), who has long been criticized by rights groups for his ‘anti-LGBT’ views and opposition to equal marriage
Mr Varadkar said that growing up in Ireland he was fascinated by American politics, which inspired him to run for office and ‘drive change’.
But he made sure that his visit to the capitol, which marked the first time a world leader has brought a same sex partner to President Trump’s Washington, addressed the elephant in the room.
Talking about his boyhood interest in politics, Mr Varadkar said he ‘knew at the time that I lived in a country where, if I tried to be myself at the time, it would have ended up breaking laws, 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.’
Mr Varadkar added: ‘I don’t believe my country is the only one in the world where this story is possible.
‘It’s found in every country were freedom and liberty are cherished.
‘We are, after all, all God’s children.
‘And that’s true of the United States as well, the land of hope, brave and free.’
Mr Pence, who describes himself as a Christian and a conservative, extended an invitation to the couple during a meeting with Mr Varadkar last year.
They met for breakfast at the official residence of the Vice President, Number One Observatory Circle, which is located on the grounds of a US naval base.
Rights groups have consistently highlighted Mr Pence’s record on LGBT issues, which they say includes an endorsement of the discredited practice of gay ‘cure’ therapy.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (right), with Mike Pence met on Thursday in Washington DC
During Mr Pence’s Congressional campaign in 2000, he proposed amending the Ryan White Care Act – which provided care for HIV patients – to stop funding for ‘organisations that celebrate and encourage the types of behaviours that facilitate the spreading of the HIV virus’.
‘Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behaviour,’ Mr Pence added.
These comments were widely interpreted as an assault on LGBT groups and an endorsement of conversion therapy, which Mr Pence has denied.
In 2009, the then-representative from Indiana voted against the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Named after a murdered gay teenager, it expanded the definition of ‘hate crime’ to include anti-gay acts.
Later, as governor of Indiana, Mr Pence introduced the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which gave businesses leave to use their ‘conscience’ as a defence in legal disputes.
Mr Pence was later forced to amend the bill, after it was criticized for effectively legalizing discrimination against LGBT people.
In a tweet, Mr Varadkar said: ‘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.’
Mr Varadkar is Ireland’s first openly gay leader and one of very few openly gay national leaders in the world.
The meeting comes on the second day of Mr Varadkar’s St Patrick’s Day tour in the US capital.
Later Mr Varadkar later met US president Donald Trump at the White House for the traditional St Patrick’s Day shamrock ceremony.
US Vice President Mike Pence waves towards Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
Mr Pence said that the US stands with Ireland as the UK continues to work through Brexit issues.
Addressing the breakfast meeting he said: ‘The Irish have given so much to America and today the partnership between our two countries, as the Taoiseach knows, has never been stronger.
‘The United States also stands with the Irish Republic as the United Kingdom continues to work through the issues of Brexit and we look forward to the day when we can even begin talks about expanding trade, a new trade agreement to grow our two economies and prosper both of our peoples.
‘It’s an honour to be with you here today.’
Mr Pence also confirmed he is planning a trip to visit Ireland.
He said he is arranging a visit to the country with his mother, Nancy.
‘I am happy to report to the Taoiseach that I have spoken to mom, first generation Irish-American and mother-of-nine, and she has confirmed that she will travel with us to Ireland and we are making plans to return to my grandfather’s homestead as we speak,’ Mr Pence said.
Mr Varadkar said: ‘I really hope you will be able to accept my invitation to Ireland very soon and I can guarantee you a very warm welcome is waiting for you, especially in Co Sligo and Co Clare from where your forebears come.
‘And you absolutely must bring your mother.’
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