Pete Buttigieg had a message for Vice President Mike Pence during a speech on Sunday: If you have a problem with my gayness, take it up with God.
During his speech on Sunday, which was made at the LGBTQ Victory Fund National Champagne Brunch, the presidential candidate and South Bend, Indiana, mayor spoke candidly about his sexuality, emphasizing how his gay identity is intertwined with his faith. A key point he emphasized: being gay is not a personal choice.
“That’s the thing that I wish the Mike Pences of the world would understand,” Buttigieg said. “That if you have a problem with who I am, your problem is not with me. Your quarrel, sir, is with my creator.”
In his speech, Buttigieg challenged the vice president, a conservative Christian who signed the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 2015, which allowed business to deny service for LGBTQ members on religious grounds. He also supported the funding of conversion therapy, which has been criticized as inhumane and ineffective by medical experts and activists, in 2000.
While directly addressing Pence, Buttigieg said his marriage to his husband has not only made him a better person but has also brought him “closer to God,” as well.
It wasn’t the first time Buttigieg talked about religion that day: The morning of his speech, Buttigieg also appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” criticizing the hypocrisy of Trump’s Evangelical supporters for embracing a president who “is not consistent with anything that I hear in scripture or in church.” A week before, he had questioned Trump’s belief in God because of the president’s lack of humility.
As Democrats start picking a nominee to face off against President Trump, who has the support of evangelical voters but isn’t exactly known for his piety, 2020 candidates are talking more about their own faith. Buttigieg’s remarks weren’t made at an event where speakers are expected to discuss their faith — but they’re part of his willingness to directly challenge political figures, including Pence, who is from Buttigieg’s home state.
Buttigieg is the second openly gay presidential candidate in history (Republican gay rights activist Fred Karger ran in 2012) and the first to have received such nationwide attention. The millennial mayor raised $7 million in the first quarter of fundraising.
One factor in his success is that Americans have become much more open to a gay candidate than they were in the past. The majority of Americans are now okay with the idea: 14 percent of Americans said they were “enthusiastic” about the prospect of an LGBT candidate, while 54 percent said they would be “comfortable,” according to a NBC/ Wall Street Journal poll earlier this year. This is a significant leap from 2006, when only 5 percent said they would be “enthusiastic” and 38 percent would be “comfortable.”
The poll indicated that even older generations are willing to change their minds, as the rate of seniors without objections against LGBT candidates rose from 31 percent to 56 percent from 2006 to today.
“Nothing is more common to the American political experience than watching things change quickly, for better and for worse,” Buttigieg said in his Sunday speech. “And often for better.”