2020 presidential hopeful and current mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg has worked personally with Vice President Mike Pence on more than one occasion. But make no mistake: Buttigieg isn’ t interested in being associated with Pence. In fact, he has no problem making it clear just how differently they feel about key issues. Buttigieg, who is openly gay and married to his husband, Chasten Glezman, comes up against Pence particularly hard in terms of LGBTQ issues and equality.
In a speech at an LGBTQ Victory Fund event this weekend, Buttigieg said that marrying his husband made him a “better human being.” Then he sent a message directly to Pence: “It has made me more compassionate, more understanding, more self-aware, more decent,” he said to the audience during the fund’s annual brunch meeting. “My marriage to Chasten has made me a better man. And yes, Mr. Vice President, it has moved me closer to God.”
Buttigieg, an Episcopalian, shared that he had struggled to accept his sexuality as a gay man. He noted that at one point in his life, he would have taken “a pill to make me straight.”
“Speaking only for myself, I can tell you that if me being gay was a choice, it was a choice that was made far, far above my pay grade,” he continued. “And that’s the thing I wish the Mike Pences of the world would understand, that if you’ve got a problem with who I am, your problem is not with me. Your quarrel, sir, is with my creator.”
Of course, given that Pence is notoriously anti-LGBTQ, it’s no surprise that there’s tension between the two men from Indiana. Pence, an evangelical Christian, has a long history of trying to enact policies that would harm LGBTQ people. He’s disturbingly backward when it comes to transgender rights, same-sex marriage, and yes, even conversion therapy. A few months ago, he also stood by and defended his wife’s decision to teach at a school that bans LGBTQ employees and students.
Buttigieg didn’t just criticize the VP, but also (fairly) brought Trump into the discussion.
“The struggle is not over when transgender troops, ready to put their lives on the line for this country, have their careers threatened with ruin one tweet at a time by a commander in chief who himself pretended to be disabled to get out of serving when it was his turn,” the Naval Reserve and Afghanistan veteran said, referencing Trump’s reported draft-dodging.
It feels important to point out that the degree to which Buttigieg discusses his faith might feel outside the norm for candidates on the left. But his using his faith to discuss his marriage to another man is revolutionary; Buttigieg doesn’t fit neatly into a box.
Unlike a handful of other candidates (such as Warren), he hasn’t released thorough policies so much as he’s campaigned based on larger ideas and concepts. His faith and his sexuality, and the way they intersect, are increasingly at the forefront of his message.
How much do you consider issues like faith and orientation when it comes to weighing candidates?