Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg is a lot of things — a millennial, a veteran, a Midwesterner and more. But one of his identities appears to be attracting more attention than others: He is a gay man.
Following the presidency of Barack Obama, many gay Americans contend the fight for LGBT rights has stalled and, in some cases, reversed. In the mayor of South Bend, Ind., some see a candidate who might be able to continue the work that they hoped would have come had Hillary Clinton won the 2016 presidential election.
In his presidential campaign announcement speech Sunday, Buttigieg signaled that prioritizing LGBT rights will be a high priority for his administration. In one of the three focus areas of his announcement speech — “freedom” — Buttigieg talked about the importance of gay people to live without the government limiting their rights.
“And take it from Chasten and me: You are certainly not free if a county clerk gets to tell you who you ought to marry based on their political beliefs,” he said, referring to his husband. “The chance to live a life of your choosing, in keeping with your values: That is freedom in its richest sense.
“And we know that good government can secure such freedom just as much as bad government can deny it.”
At a fundraiser this month for the Victory Fund, a group that helps elect LGBT candidates, Buttigieg talked about what he meant by “bad government,” its denying of rights and perhaps how he could change it.
“We know that struggle is not over just because marriage equality has come to the land,” he said. “That struggle is not over when several states in this country, including my home state of Indiana, don’t even have hate-crimes legislation. The struggle is not over when, in so many parts of our country, it’s perfectly legal to fire somebody because of who they are and who they love. It must change, and that is why we need a president prepared to sign a federal Equality Act right away.”
Many gay Americans don’t have same protections as heterosexual Americans.
“Congress is currently debating the Equality Act, which, if passed, would add gender identity and sexual orientation to the list of groups protected from discrimination under federal law,” Adam McMahon, a Rider University political science professor, wrote in an article for The Washington Post earlier this month. “Currently, someone fired or denied housing for being gay or transgender has no federal recourse, although some are protected under state laws.”
Some gay Americans were hopeful about the Trump administration’s policy toward the LGBT community after he became the first Republican nominee to mention gay Americans in his nomination acceptance speech. But many gay Americans’ posture has changed since President Trump got in the White House. Not only has he not championed legislation like the Equality Act, his critics say he has made life more difficult for gay Americans by taking away some of their rights, including his implementation of a ban on transgender people serving openly in the military and of a rollback of guidelines meant to protect transgender students.
Buttigieg is not the only Democratic candidate to support the Equality Act and expanded LGBT rights, but his thoughts on the matter appear to have attracted the most attention given his identity and personal connection to the topic. Many gay Americans and allies have responded with approval.
While LGBT rights may not be a top issue for many Americans, getting behind a leader who will take the country in a direction guaranteeing more Americans more rights than the current administration does appear to be of high interest to many Americans.