The Irish leader raised the issue, despite the meeting being held behind closed doors.
Leo Varadkar has confirmed that he raised gay rights with the Vice-President of the United States, Mike Pence, when they met for the annual St. Patrick’s Day meeting. However, when Varadkar spoke to media, he did not reveal what Pence’s response to him was.
“I did privately manage to speak to them about equality and my support for equal rights for women and the LGBT community here in America and also in Ireland,” he said.
He then continued, saying: “They were very well briefed.
“They knew about my personal story, they knew that my partner was living in Chicago, and they said that both Matt and I would both be welcome to visit their home in future, so I thought that was a very nice gesture.
“There are so many ifs and maybes, first of all I have to survive another year in my current office and secondly, Matt is not terribly keen to attend official functions but you never know.”
Many LGBTQ rights groups feared that the media ban was put in place to avoid Varadkar publicly calling Pence out on his anti-LGBTQ stance. The fears were furthered when the Irish Independent reported that the media ban came from Pence’s side, and that many Irish government sources were “unhappy” with the move.
Varadkar made history last year when he was elected as Ireland’s first ever openly gay leader. Since then, Varadkar has pressed the DUP on marriage equality in Northern Ireland, and attended Montreal Pride with Canada’s leader, Justin Trudeau.
On the other hand, Mike Pence is viciously anti-LGBTQ. In the past he has supported the discredited practice of conversion therapy, and sought to move funding from treatment of people suffering from HIV / AIDS to “institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behaviour.”
He also said that marriage equality would lead to the collapse of society, was in favour of keeping the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, and opposed a law which banned discrimination in the workplace.
His comments against anti-LGBTQ people has even led to actress Whoopi Goldberg comparing him to a Nazi. Speaking on The View, she defended Adam Rippon’s then decision to not meet with Pence, saying in Rippon’s defence: “I think it would be like asking a Jewish person to sit down and understand where the Nazi is coming from.”