Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D-South Bend, Ind.) at the CNN and Des Moines Register’s Democratic presidential debate on Tuesday. (Photo courtesy CNN/Des Moines Register)
The LGBTQ+ community has opened its hearts and wallets to the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., Pete Buttigieg. I was a co-host of two fundraisers for him in D.C. and promoting a third on Jan. 22, even though I have yet to endorse a candidate.
My reason to help raise money for Mayor Pete is a strong belief an openly gay married man who gains respect from people across the nation is good for the future of the LGBTQ community. Having young boys and girls who are coming to grips with their own sexuality, maybe living in small-town America, see this smart openly gay man out on the stump allows them to think, “Wow I can be anything I want to be.” We know the fight to gain acceptance continues and there are 37 states where you can get married to your same-sex partner on Sunday and fired from your job and lose your home on Monday. We still face discrimination and will be fighting it for many years to come.
There are many LGBTQ activists who don’t support Mayor Pete. Some claim he has not been active in the community and never lifted a finger to make things better for our community. Although I wish he had spoken out even before he came out, his running in the Democratic primary as a gay man with his husband at his side is doing a lot for us now. He has been criticized for coming out late in life, but the reality is we all come out when we are ready and that is at different times in our lives. Being ready encompasses so many factors. It could involve overcoming fear of being ostracized by family and friends or being bullied at school or fear of losing a job or never getting one. I didn’t come out till I was 34, one of the reasons being a desire to go into politics and was afraid being openly gay would preclude that. That is clearly one reason Mayor Pete stayed in the closet. Now when he did come out there were many openly gay politicians and ‘out’ role models who weren’t there when I was coming out. Yet I lived in New York and he was going to run in Indiana, very different constituencies. Again each of us live our lives differently and I can respect how he has lived his but also the views of some activists who were willing to face any backlash, speak out and come out.
We have reached a stage in the acceptance of the LGBTQ community that for many the decision of who they will vote for will not be based solely on someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. We also have to recognize for some who don’t accept us their decision on whether to vote for Mayor Pete will be based on his sexual orientation.
There are many members of the LGBTQ community who have endorsed Elizabeth Warren who see it as important to finally elect a woman and they believe in her platform. Others want to see a person of color as our nominee. There are members of the community who will not vote for Mayor Pete because they don’t see him as progressive enough and some of them are supporters of Bernie Sanders. Others have endorsed Joe Biden. Many because they believe his extensive experience is valuable and others because they see him as the Democrats’ best hope of beating Trump.
What is clear is the LGBTQ+ community is not a monolithic vote in this primary. Even though the Victory Fund endorsed Buttigieg many of their supporters have endorsed other candidates. LPAC announced their support for Warren, Harris and Klobuchar. Despite that and without a commitment to vote for him the LGBTQ community is apparently still committed to helping fund Mayor Pete’s campaign. In three fundraisers held in the D.C. area with Mayor Pete in December; one each in Baltimore, D.C. and Montgomery County, attendees were overwhelmingly LGBTQ (and overwhelmingly white) and all wanted Mayor Pete to have enough money to continue to speak out. Combined those three fundraisers produced approximately $600,000 for his campaign.
While I respect everyone’s choice to support who they like in the primary, it is my fervent hope the LGBTQ community will come together and overwhelmingly support whoever is the Democratic nominee. Only if we do that can we ensure the defeat of Donald Trump who has been a disaster not only for our community and our nation but for the world.
Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.