As the United States continues to move towards the 2020 presidential elections, South Bend, Indiana’s Mayor Pete Buttigieg continues to rise into the spotlight from a crowded field of Democratic presidential primary contenders. This week on The Ellen Show, he further explained some of his opposition to Vice President Mike Pence, who he took to task in remarks earlier in the week over his past dismissals of the LGBTQ community.
After drawing a response from Pence himself, who complained that Buttigieg — who is gay — “knows better” and was just trying to garner himself attention, the mayor explained to Ellen DeGeneres:
‘I’m not critical of his faith. I’m critical of bad policies. I don’t have a problem with religion — I’m religious too. I have a problem with religion being used as a justification to harm people, and especially in the LGBTQ community. So many people, even today, feel like they don’t belong. You can get fired in so many parts of the country just for who you are, and that’s got to change.’
It’s true — in 28 states, “there are no explicit statewide laws at all protecting people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations,” the organization Freedom for All Americans shares. Most of those states are in the generally Republican-leaning parts of the country like the South and Midwest.
It’s one of the issues that Buttigieg would no doubt be tackling should he make it to the White House — although in the meantime, it continues to rage, and it will remain on the agenda no matter who gets elected next.
The mayor has an idea for the immediate way forward, explaining to DeGeneres of the vice president:
‘If he wanted to clear this up, he could come out today and say that he’s changed his mind and it shouldn’t be legal to discriminate against anybody in this country for who they are. That’s all.’
Few probably even remotely expect him to do that. In his response to Buttigieg’s earlier commentary, Pence conveniently avoided the substance of the actual issue at hand, instead taking the conversation as a personal attack and ignoring the relevance it has for the millions of LGBTQ Americans he’s supposed to be representing as vice president of the United States.
Originally, during a speech delivered to the LGBTQ Victory Fund this week, Buttigieg had insisted:
‘That’s the thing I wish the Mike Pences of the world would understand. If you’ve got a problem with who I am, your problem is not with me. Your quarrel, sir, is with my creator.’
In the past, Pence has repeatedly taken aim at the LGBTQ community on the stated basis of his faith, including during his career in Congress and during his time as Indiana’s governor. In both contexts, he repeatedly supported legislation that would curtail the legally established rights of LGBTQ people, including via banning same-sex marriage and via establishing protections for “religious freedom” that seemed to open the door wide open for discrimination against LGBTQ people in a variety of contexts.
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