Melinda Henneberger

Melinda Henneberger: Mike Pence’s marriage outrages only the intolerant

The way some progressives are mocking Vice President Mike Pence’s view of marriage is exactly why so many Christians are convinced that their religious liberty is under attack, writes Melinda Henneberger.
The way some progressives are mocking Vice President Mike Pence’s view of marriage is exactly why so many Christians are convinced that their religious liberty is under attack, writes Melinda Henneberger. The Associated Press

This week in “I want you out of my bedroom, but won’t stay out of yours,” some progressives are atwitter over the revelation that Vice President Mike Pence doesn’t dine alone with women who aren’t Mrs. Pence.

“If there’s alcohol being served and people are being loose,” he told the Hill in 2002, “I want to have the best-looking brunette in the room standing next to me.”

Yes, this is quaint and sort of reminds me of that time the future St. Francis would only agree to have dinner with his colleague, the future St. Clare, if they ate in public, in the middle of the road, in front of the church in Assisi where she’d taken her vows.

But isn’t it up to the vice president to decide the kind of marriage and social life he wants to have?

The pretext for the outrage is that if he isn’t meeting after-hours with women, then he must not be promoting them, either.

That assumption is incorrect. His national security adviser is a woman, retired Army Col. Andrea Thompson, as is his deputy chief of staff, Jen Pavlik. Other top staff in his vice presidential office include Andeliz Castillo, Lani Czarniecki, Sarah Makin, Meghan Patenaude, Sara Egeland and Kara Brooks.

Still, a piece in the Atlantic headlined “How Pence’s Dudely Dinners Hurt Women” explains that “in boozy, late-working Washington, the eating thing rankled. Sure, during the day, you can grab coffee instead of a sandwich. But no dinner? Doesn’t that cut an entire gender off from a very powerful person at roughly 8 p.m.? To career-obsessed Washington, that’s practically happy hour — which apparently is off-limits, too.”

Are we really saying that’s the only way business gets done?

Or that dinner hasn’t been known to lead to breakfast?

No, the real issue is that the vice president has a certain kind of Christian marriage.

And he sees his vows in a way that leaves him open to exactly the kind of ridicule that has so many Christians convinced that their religious liberty is under attack, and that not everyone who preaches tolerance also practices it.

Since The Washington Post resurrected this news nugget in a profile of second lady Karen Pence on Tuesday, the vice president’s “suffocating habits” have been described in my own hearing as “narrow” and downright “creepy.”

Access is a legitimate issue, but there are other ways to assure that women get a fair shot in the workplace. I’ve known plenty of men without any such qualms who really did tend to see women primarily in a sexual way — and who were not what I’d call feminists in the corner office, either.

The Post piece never said Mike Pence doesn’t meet with women one-on-one, but the original Hill article did say he didn’t choose to spend much time socializing with men, either.

“It’s about building a zone around your marriage,” he said 15 years ago. “I don’t think it’s a predatory town, but I think you can inadvertently send the wrong message” by putting yourself in certain situations.

If the Pences had divorced, we would have called that hypocritical of such a devout believer, but to ding him for making sure that didn’t happen is hypocritical, too.

Liberals loved it when Pope Francis asked, “Who am I to judge?”

But that also applies to those who happen to share Francis’ Christian faith.

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