The vice president wasn’t in attendance at this weekend’s Columbus Pride, but his gay doppelgänger was happy to partake in the festivities in his place.
Glenn Pannell, better known as “Mike Hot-Pence,” donned his signature short-shorts, blazer, and rainbow-striped tie for the first-ever LGBTQ event held in his Republican look-a-like’s Indiana hometown of 45,000 people. He was one of more than 2,000 attendees turning out to the eventeven despite the gloomy, overcast weather.
While donning a closely-cropped white wig and posing for photos, Pannell canvassed for donations to Indiana Youth Group, an LGBTQ youth advocacy group based in Indianapolis.
The gesture was fitting for the crowd who gathered on Saturday, many of whom were young people from the surrounding area. The unprecedented gathering was the brainchild of Erin Bailey, an 18-year-old student enrolled at Columbus Signature Academy-New Tech.
At Columbus Pride fest, and met Mike Hot-Pence (formerly reported as Sexy Mike Pence), of NYC, who’s walking around for photo ops. pic.twitter.com/AvbEFFfKB4
— Robert Scheer (@bobscheer) April 14, 2018
Bailey, who is openly bisexual, said her goal was to show the town’s LGBTQ community that not everyone in Columbus shares the vice president’s views.
“I just want everyone to be able to see that no matter where you live, there's always people like you around and that you're never alone,” Bailey told INTO during a March interview. “No one should be ashamed to be themselves.”
As the governor of Indiana, the real-life Pence signed a law allowing people of faith to deny services to LGBTQ individuals based on their sincerely held religious beliefs. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, passed in 2015, led to a $60 million boycott against the stateas well as an amendment “fixing” its discriminatory components.
During his 2000 run for Congress, Pence also appeared to support conversion therapy. On his campaign website, he advocated for HIV/AIDS funding to be redirected to programs “which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.”
The vice president has denied the language was a reference to the discredited practice of seeking to “cure” the sexual orientation or gender identity of LGBTQ people.
Pence offered his support for Columbus Pride through a spokesperson.
“Vice President Pence commends Erin Bailey for her activism and engagement in the civic process,” said the vice president’s press secretary, Alyssa Farah, in a statement. “As a proud Hoosier and Columbus native, he's heartened to see young people from his hometown getting involved in the political process.”
By fearlessly standing up for #LGBTQ equality, Erin Bailey is showing @Mike_Pence that Hoosiers won’t stand for his brand of discriminatory politics. @HRC was proud to join Columbus’s inaugural #Pride and prove that #LoveTrumpsHate. pic.twitter.com/OXMHX6vGOg
— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) April 16, 2018
The Pride festivalwhich was complete with bubbles, rainbow flags, and a drag showmay spawn a wave of similar celebrations in the state.
Becky Gipson and her wife drove all the way from Lafayette (which is a nearly two-hour drive) just to attend Saturday’s event. Calling it “an opportunity to send a message to Pence,” Gipson told the Indianapolis Star that she hoped to throw a similar event in her conservative town. Both Tippecanoe and Bartholomew counties went for Trump in the 2016 election.
If Bailey’s mission was to show her town is more “welcoming” than its most famous resident might suggest, she believes the mission was accomplished. Bailey told the newspaper the larger-than-expected turnout was “crazy” and “awesome.”
At least one hot-pantsed Republican impersonator agrees.