Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar met for breakfast with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday, but not without bringing his boyfriend along.
Varadkar, Ireland’s first openly gay leader, tweeted about the breakfast held at Pence’s home in Washington, saying “it’s great to be back here for a really warm reception.”
Pence, a conservative Christian, has a vast history of anti-LGBTQ remarks and positions against same-sex marriage. While governor of Indiana in 2015, he signed a “religious freedom” law that allowed businesses to refuse services to LGBTQ customers. When he successfully ran for a House seat 19 years ago, his campaign website suggested he supported gay “conversion” therapy. He also once said to Congress that “societal collapse was always brought about following an advent of the deterioration of marriage and family.”
So, naturally, the irony of Varadkar bringing his partner, Dr. Matthew Barrett, was not unnoticed by Twitter.
Varadkar had a closed-door meeting with Pence while visiting the U.S. during St. Patrick’s Day last year. The Irish prime minister later told reporters he spoke with the vice president on LGBTQ issues and that the Pences told him he and Barrett were “very welcome to visit their home in the future.”
So that’s exactly what Varadkar did on Thursday, arriving at Pence’s house at the U.S. Naval Observatory with Barrett for a reception. The Irish leader spoke about how his historically Catholic country has progressed on LGBTQ acceptance, how “we are, after all, all God’s children” and how American politics “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.”
Pence expectedly did not mention LGBTQ rights during his speech but spoke about his family’s Irish history, including his grandfather, whose “love for the Irish people, his love for the Irish heritage is bone-marrow deep.”
The vice president also tweeted about the breakfast, but notably did not mention Varadkar’s partner.
During his trip last year, Varadkar attended the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City with Barrett, a cardiologist who resides in the U.S. The attendance was a powerful moment, considering the parade had banned LGBTQ groups from participating until 2015. Varadkar said at the time that marching with Barrett by his side was a “real privilege.”