VP Mike Pence gets message from Aspen neighbors: Make America Gay Again

Pitkin County Deputy Kent Taylor on Friday helps guard the entrance to the home near Aspen where Vice President Mike Pence is staying.
Jason Auslander / The Aspen Times |

For Vice President Mike Pence, the message was unmistakable and the banner that carried it unmissable.

“Make America Gay Again,” the rainbow banner reads.

Neighbors of the home near Aspen where Pence and his wife, Karen Sue, are staying posted the message Wednesday or Thursday on a stone pillar that sits at the end of driveways to both homes, Pitkin County Sheriff’s Deputy Michael Buglione said Friday.

“You couldn’t miss it,” he said of the sign off Owl Creek Road, adding that the man and woman who live in the home brought chili and corn muffins to deputies and Secret Service agents posted at the foot of the driveway.

The Secret Service agents were not at all perturbed about the banner, Buglione said.

Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo said one of his deputies was present when the man who lives in the home came out and first draped the banner over the stone pillar.

“He was real sheepish and thought he might be confronted by the Secret Service or deputies who’d tell him he couldn’t do it,” DiSalvo said. “When they said, ‘We’re not here to control your free speech rights,’ they came out with chili and began feeding them.

“They’ve been really nice to us.”

The residents of the home did not answer the door or respond to a note left Friday asking for comment about the banner. However, late Friday night, a resident of the home emailed The Aspen Times a brief correction to DiSalvo’s comment.

“(The banners) were actually hung by the daughters of the couple who live in the home, and one of their girlfriends (I’m one of them!) with the full support of their parents,” Shannon Slade wrote in the email.

The Pence family, who arrived Tuesday, is expected to leave Aspen on Monday and head back to the Eagle County Airport.

Pence, a former member of Congress and governor of Indiana, has described himself as a “Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order.”

As governor, he signed a law that members of the gay community said encouraged discrimination against them, though he eventually also signed an amendment to that law that protects that community. Pence also has opposed a law prohibiting discrimination against LGBT people in the workplace, was against the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and once equated marriage equality with “societal collapse.”

President Donald Trump has joked that Pence “wants to hang” all gay people, according to an October article in the New Yorker.

DiSalvo said he fully supports anyone exercising their First Amendment rights and said Aspenites have a history of expressing their opinions to powerful people who visit the area. He specifically brought up the intrepid daredevil who climbed the large blue spruce tree next to the Castle Creek Bridge and hung a sign that read, “Inhale To The Chief” when then-President Bill Clinton visited Aspen in the mid-1990s.

“This town had a history of irreverence when it came to our visitors,” DiSalvo said. “We seem to have lost that a bit, but this is an extension of that.”