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Mike Pence's hometown set to host its first ever gay pride festival

Vice President Mike Pence was born and raised in Columbus, Indiana. And his tenure as governor of that state made national headlines when he signed the controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law, igniting a fiery debate over whether businesses should be able to discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, for religious reasons.

In Congress, too, Pence positioned himself on the opposite side of several issues important to the LGBTQ community: opposing expanding the definition of hate crimes, advocating for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, and opposing measures which would protect gay or transgender people from discrimination in the workplace.

Over the past few months, the vice president again made national headlines on this topic -- first, in a Twitter exchange with openly gay U.S. figure skater Adam Rippon ahead of the Olympic Games, then as comedian John Oliver trolled him with a children's book in which the Pence family bunny was imagined in a gay relationship.

So, if you live elsewhere in the country and the vice president is your only association to Columbus, Indiana, you might assume that it's a rather unfriendly city for members of the LGBTQ community. Now, however, allies in Columbus are organizing the city's first ever gay pride festival to prove that just the opposite is true.

Erin Bailey, the high school senior organizing the festival, told CBS News she was inspired to plan the event by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which she called "insane," as well as by the widespread misconception of Columbus.

"With Columbus being Mike Pence's hometown, it seemed very important to me to show that even though Mike Pence is openly anti-LGBT, it doesn't mean that the rest of us in his hometown are," she explained. "There are plenty of people here that are in the LGBT community and that are LGBT-friendly."

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Erin Bailey, a high school senior in Columbus, Indiana, is organizing the city's first ever gay pride festival on April 14, 2018. Courtesy of Erin Bailey

The event, which is set to take place April 14, will include educational booths, music, drag performances, rainbow-themed food, pride swag and an art show.

As for the vice president, his political record may certainly be perceived as "anti-LGBT" but according to his spokeswoman, he is not anti this event. Indeed, he issued a statement of support and encouragement.

"Vice President Pence commends Erin Bailey for her activism and engagement in the civic process," spokeswoman Alyssa Farah said in a statement to the IndyStar. "As a proud Hoosier and Columbus native, he's heartened to see young people from his hometown getting involved in the political process."

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