South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg — a Democratic nominee for president who could become the first openly gay person elected to the White House — faced anti-gay protestors at a Tuesday rally in Iowa.
It appears to be the first time Buttigieg, 37, has seen homophobic heckling while on the campaign trail. He officially announced his candidacy last weekend.
According to CNN’s Jeff Zeleny, Buttigieg “was interrupted three times” by out-of-state hecklers at the Des Moines rally. USA Today reports the group shouted “Sodom and Gomorrah,” a Biblical reference to cities destroyed by God as punishment for their sins — specifically homosexuality, according to many believers.
To one such heckle of “Remember Sodom and Gomorrah,” Buttigieg responded, “Thank you” as the audience laughed. Supporters also rallied to drown out the protests (captured here) with chants of “Pete, Pete, Pete.”
From the stage Buttigieg told the audience, “The good news is, the condition of my soul is in the hands of God, but the Iowa caucuses are up to you.”
Buttigieg, a former consultant turned Naval intelligence officer who served in Afghanistan, has bumped to the front of some early polls of prospective presidential candidates, trailing only former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders. He has raised millions of dollars this year — and national media coverage has followed suit.
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If elected, Buttigieg would also be the youngest American president.
“I recognize the audacity of doing this as a Midwestern millennial mayor,” he said on Sunday during his official campaign announcement.
“I take that long view because I have to,” he said. “I come from that generation that grew up with school shootings as the norm, the generation that produced the bulk of the troops in the post-9/11 conflicts, the generation that is going to be on the business end of climate change for as long as we live.”
Buttigieg has spoken in detail about how his sexuality — and the challenges he’s faced — have shaped his life. He has also spoken about the joy his 2018 marriage, to husband Chasten, has brought him even in the context of the ongoing push for LGBTQ equality.
“Our marriage exists by the grace of a single vote on the U.S. Supreme Court,’’ he said Sunday. “Nine men and women sat down in a room and took a vote, and they brought me the most important freedom in my life.”
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Pointing to his own Christian beliefs, Buttigieg has pushed back against religious conservatives (such as Vice President Mike Pence) who cite their own faith as the basis for their anti-LGBTQ views. Buttigieg referenced just such an argument at his Iowa rally on Tuesday.
Public opinion on the LGBTQ community has undergone a seismic shift in the last 15 years. In 2004, a wave of states passed bans on gay marriage, which the Supreme Court struck down in 2015.
According to one recent NBC News poll, about 70 percent of respondents said they were comfortable with or enthusiastic about an openly gay presidential candidate. That’s up from 43 percent of respondents in 2006.