Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar brought his partner, Matthew Barrett, with him to breakfast with Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday.
After the introduction, Varadkar delivered a short speech at the vice president’s residence on the grounds of the US Naval Observatory describing the changes he’s seen in his traditionally Catholic country when it comes to acceptance of LGBT people.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and his partner, Matt Barrett, arriving for breakfast here at the US Vice President Mike Pence’s residence in Washington. Quite a significant moment… pic.twitter.com/WRZaUwkAuH
— Shane Beatty (@ShaneBeattyNews) March 14, 2019
Varadkar said that growing up in Ireland, he was always “fascinated by American politics,” which “inspired me to believe in the power of politics to do good.”
“I also knew at the time that I lived in a country where, if I tried to be myself at the time, I would have ended up breaking laws,” he said. “But today that has all changed. I stand here leader of my country, flawed and human, but judged by my political actions and not my sexual orientation, my skin tone, gender, or religious beliefs.”
Varadkar said Ireland isn’t the only place where this is possible, but “every country where freedom and liberty are cherished.”
“We are, after all, all God’s children,” he said.
Pence’s wife, Karen Pence, who was recently criticized for accepting a part-time teaching job at a private Christian school in Virginia that does not allow gay students and requires employees to affirm that marriage should only be between a man and a woman, was not present at the Thursday breakfast.
Many online were quick to point out the juxtaposition given Pence’s lengthy anti-LGBTQ record.
Thanks to the Vice President and his sister for a lovely morning at his home. What a great way to start this St Patrick’s weekend pic.twitter.com/2tzLEOTTpt
— Leo Varadkar (@campaignforleo) March 14, 2019
Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, once called Pence “the face of anti-LGBTQ hate in America”.
There are only a handful of openly gay world leaders at present, including Luxembourg’s Xavier Bettel and Serbia’s Ana Brnabic.