The juicy details of Mike Pence's marriage have captivated the American public for the opposite reason Donald Trump's marriages did: The vice president is excessively faithful. Not only does the conservative Christian affectionately refer to his wife, Karen, as "Mother," according to a Washington Post story this week he "never eats alone with a woman other than his wife and that he won't attend events featuring alcohol without her by his side, either." For the past couple days, Twitter has been locked into a battle between people who think this is kind of weird and people who think that this actually is normal, or even good.
Mother Jones editor-in-chief Clara Jeffrey took to everyone's least favorite microblogging platform to weigh in with a perspective echoed by other liberals. "If Pence won't eat dinner alone with any woman but his wife, that means he won't hire women in key spots," she tweeted. "If Pence won't eat with a woman alone, how could a woman be Chief of Staff, or lawyer?" The Atlantic published an article with a similar sentiment, using Pence's dinner preferences to expound on the plight of working women on Capitol Hill. (For the record, Mike Pence has four women on his staff, two of whom split their duties between him and the office of the second lady.)
Religious conservatives, on the other hand, rallied to Pence's defense. In many observant Christian circles the rules of the Pences' marriage weren't that weird. For instance the Federalist's Mollie Hemingway penned an impassioned op-ed asserting that Pence is "a smart man who understands that infidelity is something that threatens every marriage and must be guarded against." It got to the point where Christian writer Matt Walsh claimed that "normal" straight married men like him didn't go looking for female friends.
Discussions about a stranger's marriage are usually just gossip, and it was striking that even serious comments about who Pence was allowed to eat around came off as jokes. The issue isn't whether Pence has a business dinner with a woman or even whether he hires enough women—the problem with Pence is that he has devoted a significant part of his political life to annihilating the rights of women?
On Thursday, as everyone chattered about his dining arrangements, Pence cast a tie-breaking vote in the Senate that advanced a Republican effort to eliminate an Obama-era policy that prevents states from taking away funding from healthcare providers for political reasons. This would presumably allow conservative state governments to defund Planned Parenthood and other contraception providers.
Thanks to the Hyde Amendment, it's already illegal to use federal funding for abortions, but if places like PP lost the ability to be reimbursed by the government for services, women could lose access to birth control and things like cancer screenings. This isn't surprising: Pence is staunchly anti-choice, and is willing to deprive women of healthcare if it also means restricting access to abortion.
I can't express to you how much joy mocking Mike Pence's marriage brings me personally, but making it into a political issue is either incredibly misguided or straight-up disingenuous. The rules of his marriage are meant to prevent any chance of him having an affair, but that doesn't matter—there are still plenty of ways for him to fuck over women.
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