A group of graduating seniors turned their backs on Vice President Mike Pence, who was giving a commencement address at the University of Notre Dame on Sunday. The protest was organized by a student activist group at the university, who explained their rationale behind the walk out in a Facebook post last week: “We invite all students, faculty, and families who will be attending the Commencement ceremony to walk out with us as we take back our graduation and show our dissatisfaction with the University’s selection of Mike Pence as honored speaker. We also will walk out in dignity and solidarity with all marginalized people affected by Pence’s politics, both on this campus and throughout our nation.”
— Hayley Fixler (@HayleyABC57) May 21, 2017
One of the primary issues the group has with Pence’s politics are his stance on LGBT rights, which was demonstrated by the rainbow colored accessories some of the protesters wore. In the 1990s, Pence released statements as part of his platform that implied he was in favor of gay conversion therapy, a very controversial practice that attempts to alter a person’s sexual preference, sometimes with the aid of physical abuse. While Pence’s camp denies that his platform ever supported that practice, it is recognized that he is far more conservative on sexual matters than the President, who recently upheld an order enacted by previous President Barack Obama that supported LGBT rights.
Pence was the governor of the state of Indiana before being appointed by now-U.S. President Donald Trump as his right hand man in the executive branch. Because of his connection to the state, the majority of the audience at Notre Dame applauded Pence, and some even booed the protesting group. During the speech, Pence ironically advocated for free speech while denouncing the atmosphere of “political correctness” at American universities. “Far too many campuses across America have become characterized by speech codes, safe zones, tone policing,” Pence remarked during his speech.