In a surprising gesture, Irish Prime Minister, Leo Varadkar, and his partner, Dr. Matthew Barrett, recently were invited to the White House for breakfast by Vice President, Mike Pence.
“Last year you and Karen said that my partner, Matthew, would be welcome to join us, and we’re both really honored to accept the invitation this year,” Varadkar shared during the Friends of Ireland breakfast.
Varadkar along with only a few other openly gay world leaders, spoke on the changes he has seen in his own country on LGBTQ issues and his hopes for other places around the world to follow in Ireland’s footsteps.
Back in 2015, Ireland’s citizens voted to legalize same-sex marriage.
It was the first country to do so in a national popular vote.
“I lived in a country where, if I’d tried to be myself at the time, it would have ended up breaking laws,” the Irish prime minister shared. “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.”
Pence is a conservative Christian who has opposed same-sex marriage in the past with vigor.
Many social activists have criticized Pence for his anti-LGBTQ policies while he was governor of Indiana.
Pence has been on the record saying how “societal collapse was always brought about following an advent of the deterioration of marriage and family.”
He additionally shared how being gay is a choice and keeping gays from marrying was not discrimination but an enforcement of “God’s idea.”
Pence has also opposed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that would prohibit discrimination against LGBT people in the workplace saying how it “wages war on freedom and religion in the workplace.”
Additionally, Pence has opposed the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, telling CNN how he did not want to see the military become “a backdrop for social experimentation.”
Last but certainly not least, Pence has openly rejected the directive on transgender bathrooms.
“The federal government has not business getting involved in issues of this nature,” Pence has said.
Pence’s wife, Karen Pence, has also faced scrutiny after accepting a job at a Christian school that bans LGBTQ students as well as faculty.
Karen was not in attendance at the breakfast.
Pence commented how Varadkar’s remarks at the breakfast were “inspiring.”
“We’re also really honored to be joined by your partner, Dr. Matthew Barrett. He does great work at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago,” the vice president shared.
Folks commented on the Prime Minister’s awkward breakfast photos, saying:
“Thank you for having the courage to visit. The US isn’t the same now that Trump and Pence are working to reverse the gains of our LGBTQ+ citizens. So proud of Ireland and marriage equality decided by the citizens!”
While others commented on how the speech was a subtle knock on Pence:
“Loved your speech subtly condemning racism, sexism, and anti-LGBTQ sentiment to the biggest bigots ever. It took guts to say those things in that environment. Credit where [it’s] due.”
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