Potential 2020 Democratic hopeful Pete Buttigieg, the openly gay mayor of South Bend, Indiana, delivered a pointed message for Vice President Mike Pence on Sunday, telling him to raise his objections with the gay community with God.
Buttigieg, in a speech at LGBTQ Victory Fund National Champagne Brunch in Washington, D.C., referenced the vice president's less-than-welcoming attitude toward members of the LGBTQ community when discussing his marriage to his husband Chasten. He called marriage equality a moral issue, saying his marriage of two years has made him a "better human being."
"My marriage to Chasten has made me a better man and yes, Mr. Vice President, it has moved me closer to God," said Buttigieg, a devout Episcopalian.
"I can tell you, that if me being gay was a choice, it was a choice that was made far, far above my pay grade," he added, to a room full of loud cheers. "And that's the thing I wish the Mike Pence's of the world could understand, that if you have a problem with who I am, your problem is not with me. Your quarrel, sir, is with my creator."
Pence, a conservative Christian, has opposed same-sex marriage throughout his political career. He received harsh criticism from social activists for pursuing anti-LGBTQ policies during his time as governor of Indiana.
During his remarks Sunday, Buttigieg detailed how so much has changed for the gay community in his young lifetime. He acknowledged the historic implications of his candidacy and what it could mean for the LGBTQ community at large, including the possibility of the very first same-sex couple in the White House.
"You could either be openly gay or run for office, but not both," Buttigieg recalled of his early days in politics. But he said he was uncomfortable with the idea of coming to terms with his sexuality as a young man, saying he "would have done anything to not be gay, when I started to half way realize what it meant that I felt the way I did," comparing it to a war inside himself.
"If you had offered me a pill to make me straight, I would have swallowed it before I could get a sip of water," he said.
Buttigieg said he ultimately decided to come out as gay after his seven-month deployment to Afghanistan in 2014, which he said forced him "to realize that you only get one life." He said he finally addressed his sexuality during his reelection campaign as mayor in 2015, when Pence was governor. He said his coming out wasn't for political purposes, but for the simple reason of wanting to start dating.
The 37-year-old credited a dating app for meeting his future spouse.
"I looked through this little screen on my phone and I saw this smile. This guy and I clicked the button the right because I had to meet him. And one of the best things about this past couple of months is watching America meet him too and fall for Chasten, just like I did," he explained, crediting Chasten with helping him get through some of the tougher times in his life, including the loss of his father.
In previewing his plans for a potential presidency, the mayor said he would push for a Federal Equality Act immediately upon entering office.
"The struggle is not over when states like my own home state of Indiana don't even have hate crime legislation. The struggle is not over when in so many parts of the country it's perfectly legal to fire somebody because of who they are and who they love. It must change," said Buttigieg. He said he would also push to overturn President Trump's ban on transgender service members in the military.
"The struggle is not over when transgender troops have their careers threatened with ruin one tweet at a time by a commander-in-chief who he himself pretended to be disabled in order to get out of serving when it was his turn," he said, referring to Mr. Trump's deferments over bone spurs during the Vietnam War.
While still technically in the exploratory phase of his 2020 career, the mayor is slated to formally announce his 2020 run at an event in South Bend this weekend.