Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the most prominent members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, praised the “incredible courage and dignity and strength and activism” LGBTQ people showed during the HIV epidemic in the face of “extraordinary stigma.”
He made the comments while standing right in front of Mike Pence, one of the U.S.’s best known sources of anti-gay stigma.
Fauci was talking about how coronavirus will affect certain disadvantaged communities more than the general population, particularly African Americans. In Michigan, for example, African Americans represent 35% of all coronavirus cases and 40% of coronavirus deaths even though they only make up 14% of the state’s population.
Since Fauci, as one of the country’s foremost infectious diseases experts, has spent the better of his career fighting HIV, he made the connection to how that disease affected LGBTQ people.
“During that time, there was extraordinary stigma, particularly against the gay community,” Fauci said at a press conference yesterday, as Pence looked on. “And it was only when the world realized how the gay community responded to this outbreak with incredible courage and dignity and strength and activism — I think that really changed some of the stigma against the gay community, very much so.”
“When you’re in the middle of a crisis, like we are now with the coronavirus, it really does have ultimately shine a very bright light on some of the real weaknesses and foibles in our society.”
Pence quietly listened to Fauci. As a U.S. Congressman, as the governor of Indiana, and as vice president, his actions have helped maintain the stigma of that disease.
In 2000, when Pence was running for Congress, his campaign website’s policy section said Congress should conduct an audit to see if federal money is “being given to organizations that celebrate and encourage the types of behaviors 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 behavior,” his website said at the time, implying conversion therapy was a way to fight HIV.
He voted against all LGBTQ legislation when he was in Congress, calling it part of a “radical social agenda” and saying that LGBTQ families are not “the safest harbor for children.”
And as vice president, he has refused to even mention LGBTQ people during his World AIDS Day addresses and even delivered a keynote address at the anti-LGBTQ organization Focus on the Family, which was founded by James Dobson who once wrote that it was important to raise boys to be heterosexual to avoid “exposure to sexually transmitted diseases such as AIDS and tuberculosis, and even a shorter lifespan.”
This isn’t he first time Pence has been forced to listen to criticisms of homophobia. In 2019, the out prime minister of Ireland said that it was possible for him to be “judged by my political actions, not by my sexual orientation” because he’s from a “country where freedom and liberty are cherished” while visiting Pence.