Mike Pence on LGBT Rights: Discrimination Has 'No Place' in Trump Administration

PHOTO: Vice President Mike Pence speaks at Congress Hall in Philadelphia, Feb. 4, 2017. PlayDavid Swanson/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP
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Vice President Mike Pence defended President Trump's decision to let stand an Obama-era order protecting the rights of some LGBT workers, noting that Trump made clear during his campaign that "discrimination would have no place in our administration."

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ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos asked Pence about the response of social conservatives to Trump's decision last week to keep intact President Obama's 2014 executive order barring discrimination against LGBT employees of federal contractors.

Stephanopoulos referred to the reaction of Bob Vander Plaats of the conservative group The Family Leader, who said, "Our base would want to know who is responsible for what we believe is an issue of religious liberty — that would be of concern to us."

"What's the answer?," Stephanopoulos asked Pence.

The vice president responded that Trump's decision was in line with his message about the LGBT community on the campaign trail.

“I think throughout the campaign, President Trump made it clear that discrimination would have no place in our administration,” Pence said in an interview on ABC's "This Week" that aired Sunday,. “He was the very first Republican nominee to mention the LGBTQ community at our Republican National Convention and was applauded for it. And I was there applauding with him.”

Pence continued, "I think the generosity of his spirit, recognizing that in the patriot's heart, there's no room for prejudice, is part of who this president is."

The vice president also reaffirmed Trump’s stated plan to "destroy" the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits churches and other tax-exempt organizations from endorsing or opposing political candidates.

The president said at the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday, "I will get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution."

Passed in 1954, the Johnson Amendment is a provision of the U.S. tax code that prevents tax-exempt organizations — like churches and universities — from engaging in political activities. Organizations that do so risk losing their tax-exempt status.

Pence told Stephanopoulos, “The president's made it clear that he wants to take action on the Johnson Amendment. He's directed the administration to begin to look at ways, both legislatively and through executive action, to do that.”

The vice president also left the door open to President Trump issuing executive orders to preserve what Pence described as other matters of religious liberty.

“His reiterated commitment to religious liberty are all a part of the kind of leadership that people are going to welcome from President Trump,” Pence said.

Stephanopoulos pressed the vice president, asking, “Do you think a new executive order is necessary on religious liberty? Or is current law sufficient?”

Pence responded that it’s the “purview of the president” to determine if further executive action would be necessary.

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