Marlon Bundo, Pence family pet rabbit and unlikely star of gay rights book, dies

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<span>Photograph: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Marlon Bundo, the family pet rabbit of former vice-president Mike Pence, has died, marking the end of an unlikely career as a prominent gay rights figure in the US.

Charlotte Pence Bond, Pence’s daughter, announced Bundo’s death in posts on social media. “Somehow, you taught me how to always try to be kind first and never stop making an effort to get along. We had some wild times together and I’m forever grateful. Rest in sweet peace, little bunny,” she wrote.

Related: Mike Pence equates voting rights protections with Capitol attack

Political pets are a common theme in American politics – from the president on down – but Bundo’s high media profile was unusual.

Firstly, he figured as the central character in a series of children’s books written by the second family. Secondly, as a parody of Pence’s deep social conservatism and history of opposing gay marriage, Bundo was also the main theme of a satirical book launched by late-night TV comedian John Oliver, that chronicled his search for a same-sex bunny partner.

That book was called A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo and Oliver described the Pence rabbit as a “very special boy bunny who falls in love with another boy bunny”. Proceeds were donated to the Trevor Project, which works on suicide prevention organization for young LGBTQ+ people, and the Aids United charity.

It was in marked contrast to the Pence family books which were called things like A Day in the Nation’s Capital and Best Christmas Ever.

Oliver’s book, written by Jill Twiss, a comedian and staff writer on Oliver’s show, became a runaway bestseller in the US and hit the top spot on Amazon, outpacing the Pence books and delighting LGBTQ+ rights groups.

Pence is staunchly opposed to gay marriage, and once said in 2006 it would lead to the “deterioration of the family” and “societal collapse”. But in Oliver’s world Bundo wants to marry a handsome fellow boy rabbit called Wesley in a tale “of tolerance and advocacy ... [exploring] issues of same-sex marriage and democracy”.

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