Mike Pence's doppelgänger says Pence would be worse than Trump as president
The election of President Trump sent shockwaves throughout much of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, who, after achieving eight years worth of political gains under the Obama administration, now faces an administration many LGBT leaders deem hostile to its civil rights goals.
But as controversy continues to cloud Donald Trump's presidency, with a growing investigation into his campaign ties to Russia looming over his administration, the odds of Vice President Mike Pence assuming the nation's highest seat before the next presidential election have people talking.
And a chunk of them belongs to the LGBT community, who are not so certain Pence would be a better choice for gay and transgender Americans given his long history of opposition to LGBT rights.
Last year, Glenn Pannell, a gay man who people thought looked eerily similar to Pence, made headlines after donning short shorts while collecting money for health care and LGBT rights organizations in the wake of the election.
But nearly seven months later, Pannell, who said he was "hit hard" by Trump's victory, believes his worse fears have been brought to fruition.
"I think Trump is very scary. I joined the course of people who are terrified of what is happening to this country and what is happening to people's opinion of this country, both here and abroad," Pannell tells AOL News.
See photos of Glenn "Hot-Pence" Pannell
Pannell believes Trump has been working hard to roll back some of the progress made by the LGBT community under the Obama administration.
Since Trump's inauguration in January, LGBT activists have grown embittered by the current administration's rollback of federal guidance advising school districts to let transgender students use bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity.
And many members and allies of the community, including Pannell, complain that Trump, who campaigned in 2016 as a potential ally of the community, staffed his team with opponents of LGBT rights, such as Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, and, more notably, the next in line for the presidency in the event Trump is unseated, Vice President Mike Pence.
But as far as the talk of Trump or Pence as president goes, "it really is a sort of pick your poison dilemma, Pannell said when considering his look-alike's staunch opposition towards LGBT rights. "Do you want unfocused and dangerous or focused and dangerous?"
For many in the LGBT community, it's no secret that Pence has long stood against the expansion of rights for gay and lesbian couples. But, for many, his distaste for LGBT equality goes even further.
As governor of Indiana, Pence attracted the public's attention when he signed into law a bill that legalized the refusal of service to gay and transgender people on account of the business' religious freedom, for example, a bakery that cited its religious freedom as probable cause to refuse to bake a cake for a same-sex couple getting married.
"The sad reality is that if [Trump] is impeached or if he resigns, then we are stuck with a President Pence," which Pannell adds might actually be more dangerous for the LGBT community.
And he is not alone.
Sarah Kate Ellis, the President and CEO of GLAAD, agreed, telling AOL News: "From his time as U.S. Congressman to being Indiana's governor, Pence's anti-LGBTQ activism spans decades, and it would only continue if he reached the nation's highest political office."
Though the early administration of Trump has been criticized for its perceived anti-LGBT appointments and decisions like proposing cuts in funding for HIV and AIDS research, many still predict worse would happen for the LGBT community in the event of an actual Pence presidency.
"What LGBTQ Americans are witnessing since Donald Trump became president is a systematic erasure to the LGBTQ community," Ellis continued. "The Trump Administration has removed LGBTQ people from government websites and the upcoming 2020 U.S. Census, but if Mike Pence were to ever become president, this erasure would be placed into overdrive."
Images from LGBTQ Pride month 2017:
However, the divisive nature of both Trump and Pence's positions on gay and transgender issues made it difficult for Rea Carey, the executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, to ponder which man would be better or worse for the LGBT community.
"They are both terrible — as is third in line, Paul Ryan and fourth in line Orrin Hatch," Carey said in a statement to AOL News. "They all represent policies that are designed to reverse progress and to hold back lived freedom, justice, equality, and equity for LGBTQ people and everyone."
During his campaign, LGBT leaders were alarmed when Trump promised to nullify all of Obama's executive orders, including an order that protected federal contractors from anti-LGBT discrimination, which many are saying weakens the protections of LGBT employees.
But leaders say Pence has done little since his days in Congress to suggest he disagrees with the president's actions.
The vice president's history of opposition to gay rights dates back to his first congressional campaign in 2000 when he argued against same-sex marriage and non-discrimination laws that protected members of the LGBT community.
The self-described "Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order" politician also said being gay was a choice before a group of 100 conservative House members in 2006 as head of the Republican Study Committee. He even cited a Harvard researcher to justify the views stated in his speech, saying, "societal collapse was always brought about following an advent of the deterioration of marriage and family."
David Stacy, the Government Affairs Director of the Human Rights Campaign, also said it's difficult to draw a distinction between a Trump or Pence presidency in relation to its impact on LGBT rights.
Stacy said he thinks the country is already seeing "Mike-Pence policies" being pursued across the nation.
"Mike Pence appears to be quite empowered in this administration," Stacy said. "His people that are most ideologically similar to him, who are most in agreement around LGBTQ issues, are the one's that seem to be making decisions, whether it's Tom Price and HHS or its the Attorney General."
But, even if the political climate drastically changes by way of the growing FBI investigation into the Trump campaign's relationship with Russian officials, Stacy contends the struggle for gay and transgender rights will inevitably continue.
"The country is in a different place," Stacy said, citing stats from a 2015 Gallup Poll revealing 60 percent of Americans to be in support of same-sex marriage, including the "majority of Republicans," which he said is evidence that "the country is way ahead of the politicians."
He is not entirely optimistic, however, that the Trump administration will change its stance on LGBT issues anytime soon.
"I think we have an administration that isn't being driven by what's popular," Stacy concluded. "They're being driving by ideological agenda and, unfortunately, that ideological agenda includes an anti-LGBTQ agenda.
Click through images from LGBTQ protests outside Ivanka Trump's home: