Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly characterized Pence’s views toward the gay community. It has been updated to say that he signed a religious freedom law seen as tolerating discrimination against the gay community, but later supported changes to the law that offered explicit protections based on sexual orientation.
President Trump said “some people” may have a problem with Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg’s marriage to his husband, Chasten, but he thinks “it’s absolutely fine,” “great” and “good.”
The president was asked during a taped Fox News interview for his thoughts on the societal progress that has allowed a married gay man to run for president with his spouse at his side and for it to be “normal.”
“I think it’s absolutely fine,” Trump said, according to excerpts released by Fox News. The interview will air Sunday night.
“I think it’s great,” the president added. “I think that’s something that perhaps some people will have a problem with. I have no problem with it whatsoever. I think it’s good.”
As a candidate for president, Trump said he’d be a friend of the LGBTQ community and even called during his 2016 convention acceptance speech for protecting gay rights globally. But he also said during the campaign that evangelical voters could trust him to oppose marriage equality nationally and advocate instead that the matter be left to the states.
Trump also selected as his running mate Mike Pence, who as Indiana governor signed a religious freedom law seen as tolerating discrimination against the gay community. (After a national outcry, Pence supported changes to the law that offered explicit protections to patrons, employees and tenants regardless of sexual orientation.)
The Republican National Committee’s official platform echoed Trump’s desire to return “control over marriage to states” and affirmed that “conversion therapy,” the discredited practice that one’s sexual orientation can be changed through therapy, is a “parental right.”
GLAAD, a gay rights advocacy group, seized on Trump’s reference to people who oppose same-sex marriage, tweeting that those same people are ones “he’s been buddying up to since he took office.”
Buttigieg, who has ascended in the polls despite his low national profile as mayor of South Bend, Ind., is the first openly gay person to make a serious run for the presidency. During his stump speeches, he often reflects that it’s not lost on him that his marriage is possible because of one vote on the Supreme Court.
“What every gay person has in common with every excluded person of every kind is knowing what it’s like to see a wall between you and the rest of the world, and wonder what it’s like on the other side,” Buttigieg said Monday as the keynote speaker at a Human Rights Campaign dinner.
Buttigieg has accused Pence of abandoning his morals to work for Trump and criticized the vice president for the anti-gay policies he has promoted. The two men got into a back-and-forth via the media last month when Pence accused Buttigieg of attacking his Christian faith. Buttigieg responded that he was attacking Pence’s use of religion as justification for his treatment of the LGBTQ community.
Trump’s administration has antagonized that community via its policies, including banning transgender people from serving in the military and rolling back some workplace protections for LGBTQ people put in place by the Obama White House.
The Trump White House also opposes a Democratic bill to create a federal standard to protect people from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
The House will vote on that bill Friday.