Supporters at a town hall for Pete Buttigieg in Winterset, Iowa / Gage Skidmore / flickr
This month’s award for the Most Patient Campaigner in America goes to Nikki van den Heever, a precinct captain for Pete Buttigieg in Cresco, Iowa. A video clip of a discussion she had about Buttigieg’s homosexuality went viral this week. A woman wearing an Amy Klobuchar pin had just signed a card for Buttigieg when she learned that he was gay.
“Are you saying that he has the same-sex partner? Pete?” the woman says incredulously. Yes,” replies Ms van den Heever. “Are you kidding?” the woman says. “I don’t want anybody like that in the White House. So can I have my card back? I never knew that.”
Then there ensues a discussion of whether homosexuality is Christian. “Why does it say in the Bible that a man should marry a woman, then?” the unidentified woman says. “How come this has never been brought out before?”
“It’s common knowledge,” Ms van den Heever explains with gold-medal patience. “The whole point of it is, though, that he’s a human being just like you and me and should it really matter.”
Ms Van den Heever goes on: “I totally respect your viewpoint on this; I so totally do,” but she points out, “What I teach my son is that love is love, and that we’re all human beings.”
And with a gracious smile she concludes, “What I would like you to do is just think deep inside and think, should it matter if it’s a woman or if it’s a man or if they’re heterosexual or homosexual.”
That is the reflection that millions of American voters will be asked to make if Buttigieg wins the Democratic nomination. The chances of that happening are slim, of course. The latest odds, as reported by statistics website FiveThirtyEight, are about one in 20, despite his impressive performance in the Iowa caucus this week.
But everyone – apart from the voter in Cresco, apparently – is aware that Buttigieg is gay – and not only gay, but married to a gay man, Chasten Buttigieg.
So far in the campaign, Buttigieg’s openness about his sexuality appears to have enhanced his image in the media. For some journalists, it’s both transgressive and cute. How else could you excuse the cloying marzipan in Time magazine this week?
“the broader emotional arc of … Buttigieg’s identity informs his central argument about grace and belonging: that America is flawed but forgivable, that her sins are venial but not mortal, and that bigotry can be melted by love.”
Of course, this may not be surprising in the light of the fact that “four of the six cable and network reporters assigned to Buttigieg—two-thirds of the journalists who routinely travel with him—identify as LGBTQ,” according to Politico.
With straight journalists wary of being labelled homophobic, Buttigieg has had a dream run in the media. Harvard. Rhodes Scholar. Afghanistan vet. McKinsey. Youngest mayor ever. Christian. Reads the Bible. Only 38. Gay-married. Speaks Norwegian. OMG, help me! I’m hyperventilating!
That is bound to change. A Democrat activist, Adam Jentleson, who supports Elizabeth Warren, told Politico: “My working theory on why he gets the kid glove treatment is that no one really thinks he can win the nomination so they’re not motivated to dig hard on him, and at the same time he’s fluent in upper-middle-class West Wing politics fantasy bullshit.”
Well, with Buttigieg’s gayness so central to his public image, it’s important to dig hard about his line on LGBTQ+ issues. The policy statement on his website, “Becoming Whole: A New Era for LGBTQ+ People in America” is long and detailed. That’s par for the course for a former McKinsey management consultant. But it’s 11 times longer than the document on the website for Bernie Sanders (who is also gay and trans-friendly). Buttigieg takes LGBTQ+ issues very, very seriously.
Here are some of his ideas.
- Update US passports to include a third, non-binary gender option, “X”
- End the blanket ban on blood donation from people including gay and bisexual men and replace it with a science-based approach.
- Mandatory insurance for transgender surgery. Trans men should have access to safe reproductive health care including pap smears and breast exams.
- Launch a LGBTQ+ suicide prevention task force
- Ensure access to drugs for everyone with HIV by slashing the price of Truvada.
- Prohibit violence, bullying, and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
- End “conversion therapy” nationwide.
- Encourage family acceptance of LGBTQ+ youth.
- Stop funding abstinence-only sexual health education programs and back comprehensive sexual health education in schools
- Place transgender prisoners in jails that align with their gender identity.
- Rescind the transgender military ban.
- Increase funding to help celebrate LGBTQ+ history and culture.
- Campaign globally for LGBTQ+ rights
- Appoint LGBTQ+ people to serve in important positions in the executive and judicial Branches.
- Celebrate the LGBTQ+ community during Pride Month; honour how they have helped make us a more perfect union; and recognize the immense contributions they make to our society.
It’s not homophobic to say that a Buttigieg Administration intends to campaign vigorously, both domestically and internationally, to promote LGBTQ+ rights and lifestyle in schools and families.
It's not homophobic to say that he plans to rainbow-wash American society from top to bottom. That’s not an interpretation of his policies; that is his policy.
As more voters learn exactly what he has in mind, they may react like the astonished woman in the viral video. Her support for Buttigieg “all just went right down the toilet, that’s where it all went.”
Michael Cook is editor of MercatorNet