- The Washington Times - Friday, September 6, 2019

The president of Iceland included a colorful accessory choice for the occasion of his recent Reykjavik meeting with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, a rainbow bracelet. 

Guðni Jóhannesson and his wife, Eliza Reid, both wore the rainbow bands during the meeting, apparently as a show of support for LGBT individuals in light of criticism of Mr. Pence’s record on gay and transgender issues.

The Indiana Republican, a devout Christian, has been criticized as anti-LGBT by detractors for his record in public office, especially a controversy from 2015 during Mr. Pence’s tenure as governor when a religious-liberty bill he supported was met with fierce opposition from gay-rights groups as well as business interests both in the Hoosier State and nationally.

Critics feared the measure would give business owners the ability to discriminate against gay patrons, which Mr. Pence said “certainly wasn’t my intent.” Public pressure ultimately resulted in an amendment being added shortly thereafter to address concerns which had been raised by detractors.

Since taking office as vice president, Mr. Pence has supported social-conservative priorities such as a ban on transgender troops serving openly in the military. In 2018, Mr. Pence also addressed a conference hosted by the Family Research Council, an organization the liberal Southern Poverty Law Center has included in its listing of hate groups over the FRC’s stand on LGBT issues.

For his part, President Trump has defended his number two, saying there’s no way Mr. Pence could be “anti-gay” since he chose to meet with Ireland’s openly gay taoiseach, or prime minister, Leo Varadkar and his partner. 

In addition to Mr. Jóhannesson’s fashion statement in favor of gay rights, Advania, an IT company located across the street from where Mr. Pence and other world leaders met, switched out its flags for rainbow flags as an expression of solidarity with LGBT activists.

“We just felt the need to celebrate diversity today and wanted to show that by flying the flags,” Ægir Már Þórisson, Advania’s company director, said to the Icelandic news service Monitor.

This isn’t the first time Mr. Jóhannesson has worn the rainbow bracelet to protest a visiting politician’s involvement with anti-LGBT policies. He has also worn it when meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

• Bailey Vogt can be reached at bvogt@washingtontimes.com.

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