Annise Parker, president and chief executive of Victory Fund, an organization that helps elect LGBTQ candidates, described the mayor’s campaign as a turning point in the country’s history. Victory Fund endorsed Buttigieg.
“Pete’s candidacy represents a revolution in American politics, forever transforming what is possible for an LGBTQ candidate and making clear America will elect an openly LGBTQ president,” she said in a statement Monday. “The impact of his campaign extends beyond this election cycle and is about much more than politics or the presidency.”
Sarah Kate Ellis, president and chief executive of GLAAD, an LGBTQ rights media organization, tweeted Sunday: “Pete’s success will no doubt lead to more LGBTQ candidates in political races large and small.”
Pete’s success will no doubt lead to more LGBTQ candidates in political races large and small.— Sarah Kate Ellis (@sarahkateellis) March 1, 2020
Buttigieg’s relatively poor performances in Nevada and South Carolina showed that he would have a difficult time building the broad coalition of support needed to capture the Democratic nomination. But Buttigieg did keep one issue in the election year conversation that many of his supporters believe has gotten short shrift: Gains in LGBTQ rights are at risk of stalling out or being eroded in the Trump era.
Buttigieg didn’t make advocating for LGBTQ issues the primary focus of his campaign. At a CNN town hall last week, the former mayor said: “I’m not running to be the gay president of the United States, or the president of the gay United States. I’m out here to serve everybody.”
But even before officially getting in the race, Buttigieg made it clear that advancing gay rights would be part of his agenda. Shortly before his presidential campaign announcement in April, Buttigieg spoke about expanding rights to LGBT Americans at a fundraiser for Victory Fund.
“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.”
If passed, the Equality Act would make discriminating against LGBTQ Americans illegal. The bill passed in the House last year, but it has yet to come up for a vote in the Senate — and the White House has made it clear that the president does not support the bill.
Buttigieg’s husband regularly joined him on the campaign trail, and the former mayor frequently praised the Obama-era Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex marriage as a move in the right direction for the country. But Buttigieg regularly pointed out that other decisions under the previous president — particularly those related to trans Americans — were at risk of being removed under the current president.
“Every policy turn we’ve seen out of this administration has been hostile to LGBTQ people,” he said last May in Iowa, a state he would eventually go on to win nearly a year later.
The fight often presents itself as a battle between advancing LGBTQ rights and advocates of religious freedom. The president often couches his reversal of Obama-era policies on LGBTQ issues as an effort to protect religious freedoms — especially those of the conservative evangelicals who helped send Trump to the White House. Buttigieg sought to challenge voters whose Christianity was the basis for opposing LGBT advancements as they continued supporting Trump.
And Buttigieg frequently used as a foil Vice President Pence, who as Indiana’s governor grabbed national headlines for his support of a bill that critics said discriminated against LGBTQ Americans.
“And yes, Mr. Vice President,” he said while speaking about his marriage at that April fundraiser. “It has moved me closer to God.”
“That’s the thing I wish the Mike Pences of the world would understand: That if you have a problem with who I am, your quarrel is not with me,” he added. “Your quarrel, sir, is with my creator.”
But with Buttigieg out of the race, these issues — while important to Democratic candidates — may not be as prominent in the campaigns of the remaining candidates. Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, one of the country’s largest LGBTQ rights organizations, said it would be a mistake for other candidates not to prioritize these issues.
“There are 11 million self-identified LGBTQ voters and 57 million ‘pro-equality’ voters who are focusing on LGBT issues and vote consistently with pro-equality positions,” he told The Fix. “And we have communicated with all of the candidates about the importance of that.”
He added: “Polls show that close to 70 percent of Americans support the Equality Act or say that we should have nondiscrimination protections that extend to LGBT people. We know that they want laws that are fair and equitable. We need to make sure that the candidates — and I believe they do — continue to highlight these issues and ensure that they will be fair and equitable and that they advance the principles of equality.”
The HRC has staff in battleground states — Arizona, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Nevada — working to turn out voters and educate them on issues affecting LGBTQ Americans, with the hope of sending candidates the message that advancing gay rights should be core parts of their campaign moving forward.