Article from ABC NEWS
A group of graduating seniors from the University of Notre Dame turned their backs on their own graduation ceremony in protest of Vice President Mike Pence, who gave their commencement address there on Sunday.
The protests, which were organized by a student activist group at Notre Dame called We Stand For, were staged in response to “marginalized people affected by Pence’s politics,” according to a Facebook post published by the group last week, which urged students to join them in the walk out.
“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,” the group wrote. “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.”
Video of the protest shows students leaving the facility without any signs of disruption. Many of them were wearing rainbow colored accessories in solidarity with LGBTQ politics.
The speech marked a homecoming of sorts for Pence, who served as the governor of Indiana while many of the students who graduated today were attending school there.
Aside from those who walked out on him, Pence was greeted warmly by the students, some of whom booed the protesters.
The vice president used the opportunity of the speech to advocate for free speech on college campuses, and criticize what he called “administration-sanctioned political correctness.”
“While this institution has maintained an atmosphere of civility and open debate, far too many campuses across America have become characterized by speech codes, safe zones, tone policing, administration-sanctioned political correctness — all of which amounts to nothing less than suppression of the freedom of speech,” he said in the address.
He called the atmosphere of policing speech “destructive of learning and the pursuit of knowledge.”
The vice president has received harsh criticism from LGBTQ activists, who view him as an opponent of their agenda. Pence is seen by some as a proponent of so-called gay conversion therapy, a highly controversial process of attempting to alter a person’s sexual preference, sometimes through physical abuse, that has been banned in multiple states.
As a candidate for Congress in the 1990s, Pence’s campaign website included a statement that fueled the belief that he was in support of conversion therapies for gay youths.
“Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior,” the website said, under a header reading, “The Pence agenda.”
Asked about the campaign language, a spokesman for Pence told ABC News that Pence was calling for federal funds to “be directed to groups that promoted safe sexual practices” and said “any assertion that Vice President-elect Pence supported or advocated for conversion therapy is patently false and is a mischaracterization of language from a 16-year old campaign website.”
Earlier this year, President Donald Trump let stand an Obama-era order protecting the rights of some LGBT workers, and was widely regarded as being more accepting of LGBTQ issues than his running mate.
Pence told ABC News in the wake of that decision that he sided with Trump.
“I think throughout the campaign, President Trump made it clear that discrimination would have no place in our administration,” Pence told ABC News in a “This Week” interview that aired in February, responding to the potential for misalignment on issues of sexuality in the administration. “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.”