South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg spoke at the LGBTQ Victory Fund's annual brunch in Washington on Sunday, and he opened up about his struggles coming to terms with being gay. He also shared a message for Vice President Mike Pence, who was governor of Indiana when Buttigieg came out in 2015. Buttigieg, 37, is now married and exploring a bid for the 2020 Democratic nomination.
"It's hard to face the truth that there were times in my life when, if you had shown me exactly what it was inside me that made me gay, I would have cut it out with a knife," Buttigieg said. "If you had offered me a pill to make me straight, I would've swallowed it before you had time to give me a sip of water." Thankfully there was no knife or pill, he added, and now he understands believing there's something wrong with being gay "puts you at war not only with yourself, but with your maker."
"My marriage to Chasten has made me a better man — and yes, Mr. Vice President, it has moved me closer to God," Buttigieg said. "And that's the thing I wish the Mike Pences of the world would understand, that if you've got a problem with who I am, your problem is not with me. Your quarrel, sir, is with my creator."
Pence is a conservative evangelical Christian who opposes same-sex marriage; Buttigieg's Episcopalian. "It's unusual for Democratic presidential candidates to talk about faith as often as Buttigieg does," USA Today notes. "It's groundbreaking that he uses his marriage to another man to illustrate his personal relationship with God." The LGBTQ Victory Fund audience appeared appreciative of his Christian left beliefs, even if they don't share them.
"He talked about God in a room that's probably full of atheists — that's what I am," said Jack Jacobson. "He does it unabashedly and in a way that doesn't come across as threatening, dismissive, or negative."