Get Ready…for Mayor Pete
He’s a happily married man, soon to celebrate his first anniversary. Raised Roman Catholic, he is now a committed, practicing Episcopalian. He and his spouse do not have any children, but they would like to raise a family. He attained his Bachelor’s degree at Harvard and became a Rhodes scholar. He speaks seven languages fluently, including French, Italian, Spanish, Maltese, Norwegian, Arabic, and Farsi. He is the two-term mayor of a city of over 100,000 people in the Midwest. He took a leave of absence from his mayoral position to serve a tour in Afghanistan as a Naval Reserve officer.
This man, at the age of thirty-seven, is positioning himself to become the youngest elected president of the United States. In media interviews, he directly answers questions addressed to him, and is refreshingly articulate. At first glance, there does not appear to be any trait to which people could take exception. Oh, yes, there is that one aspect of him that some may find objectionable—he is gay.
Pete Buttigieg seemingly came out of nowhere to place himself on the national stage. Once journalists and broadcasters mastered the pronunciation of his last name (Boot-edge-edge) they began to explore the accomplishments and potential pitfalls of his two terms as mayor of South Bend, Indiana. There does not appear to be much to discredit. In his first mayoral term, from 2012 to 2016, his focus was on eliminating blighted properties across the city. His “1,000 properties in 1,000 days” hit its mark sixty-two days ahead of schedule.
The difficult issue of illegal police taping of phone conversations has been tied up in Indiana courts for several years. Buttigieg has not yet allowed these tapes to be released to the public, citing their questionable legal status. Another achievement for his administration was Smart Streets, an effort to make downtown South Bend more pedestrian-friendly, encouraging retail and housing growth. Bike lanes were added and streets were widened to allow better traffic flow.
In spite of so much going for Buttigieg and his leadership in South Bend, he butted heads with the former governor of Indiana, now Vice-President Mike Pence. It is no secret that Pence is anti-LGBTQ. Pence has railed against the gay and transgender community for years. His signature legislation as governor was the March 2015 passage of SB 101, known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. This law granted blanket permission to businesses and other entities to refuse services to LGBTQ persons. In the midst of significant backlash from many sectors, an amendment was passed one week later, specifically prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Following these actions, and in anticipation of the passage of marriage equality by the Supreme Court, Pete Buttigieg wrote an op-ed in the South Bend Tribune on June 26, 2015. In his remarks, he shared his sexual orientation with the public for the first time, in a very public forum.
He wrote, “I was well into adulthood before I was prepared to acknowledge the simple fact that I am gay. It took years of struggle and growth for me to recognize that it’s just a fact of life, like having brown hair, and part of who I am. Putting something this personal on the pages of a newspaper does not come easy….[I]t’s clear to me that at a moment like this, being more open about it could do some good.
[T]he true compass that will have guided us will be the basic regard and concern that we have for one another as fellow human beings—based not on categories of politics, orientation, background, status or creed, but on our shared knowledge that the greatest thing any of us has to offer is love.”
Taking the national stage as a gay man will inevitably give rise to the cruelty and venom of those who profess to follow the God of love. In fact, this is already taking shape. At a recent rally in Des Moines, Iowa, a heckler shouted, “Remember Sodom and Gomorrah!” At another event in Iowa, a person dressed like Buttigieg pretended to whip a man dressed as Jesus, as a third man dressed as Satan stood nearby and shouted anti-gay lines. Buttigieg noted, “I think when you’re in politics, especially at this level, you’re going to see the good, the bad, the ugly, and the peculiar.”
Should Pete Buttigieg get any significant traction in his presidential candidacy, he will be subject to more of this opposition, and it will definitely get uglier and more peculiar. Those who see themselves as the guardians of true faith are ready to condemn Buttigieg and his supporters who desire a place at the table for the LGBTQ community. His recent criticism of Mike Pence was spectacular. “If you’ve got a problem with who I am, your problem is not with me. Your quarrel, sir, is with my creator.”
You tell ‘em, Mayor Pete.▼
David Garrett is a straight advocate for equality and inclusion. He is also the proud father of an adult transdaughter. Email David Garrrett.