by Joe Siegel
(This is the fourth in a planned series of interviews with local media professionals who have covered candidates as they announce their presidential candidacy.)
Pete Buttigieg has made history this month, becoming the first openly gay candidate for president of United States. Buttigieg, 37, is a former naval intelligence officer and is the mayor of South Bend, Ind.
The Washington Blade’s coverage of Buttigieg’s April 14 campaign announcement acknowledged his feelings about his sexuality: “Buttigieg referenced about the struggles of his youth — in terms of his sexual orientation and intellectual curiosity — when he said the only time he’d go back to the past was 20 years ago to allay the fears of his youthful self. The candidate said he would tell his younger self he’d be ‘all right’ and ‘one rainy April day, before he even turns 40, he’ll wake up to headlines about whether he’s rising too quickly as he becomes a top-tier contender for the American presidency, and to tell him that on that day he announces his campaign for president, he’ll do it with his husband looking on.”
|South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg
In an April 1 editorial in the Blade, “Pete Buttigieg is gay enough,” writer Patrick Cochran touched on Buttigieg’s status as a gay man. “I haven’t met Mayor Pete, but I think I can safely say that he didn’t want to go through life with everyone assuming he was straight, feeling as though he was hiding a key part of his identity from his constituents. His coming out in 2015 was brave. He and his husband, Chasten, are out and proud. They are comfortable being who they are, despite rising numbers of hate crimes against LGBTQ individuals and despite the Trump administration’s rabidly anti-LGBTQ agenda. While Pete Buttigieg is a long way from claiming the Democratic Party’s nomination for president, his journey as an openly gay candidate is an inspiration.”
Buttigieg wasn’t the only Democrat to make it official over the past month of so. Beto O’Rourke, 46, is another contender for the Democratic presidential nomination. He represented Texas’ 16th congressional district for three terms.
In an October 2018 interview with Houston’s Outsmart magazine, O’Rourke touted his support of LGBT rights. “When I was on the El Paso City Council, I began to understand how much more we have to do to make sure that everyone is treated equally under the law. I remember in 2008 listening to a constituent who was a city employee who shared with me that although they were in a committed relationship, they couldn’t get healthcare benefits [like straight] married couples could. We passed a city ordinance that changed that, but it became a very contentious and controversial issue.”
Outsmart also noted: “O’Rourke supports the federal Equality Act, which would ban LGBTQ discrimination nationwide. He has also expressed opposition to Trump’s proposed ban on transgender troops, as well as Texas’ anti-LGBTQ adoption law and the state’s failed anti-transgender bathroom bill.”
California Congressman Eric Swalwell, 38, also announced his candidacy.
“Rep. Swalwell has long been an ally to the LGBT community,” said Cynthia Laird, news editor of the Bay Area Reporter. “He is more focused on international issues and in February wrote an op-ed for the BAR highlighting his actions with other House members on global gay rights.”
Swalwell touted his opposition to President Trump’s anti-LGBT policies in a February column in the Bay Area Reporter: “I sent a letter this month signed by 160 House members urging Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan not to implement the president’s heartless and pointless ban on transgender people serving our nation in the armed forces. Back in November, I joined 87 of my colleagues in a letter demanding that Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar reject any consideration of a policy to redefine ‘sex’ to exclude the transgender community, denying them basic civil rights. And I’ll be an original co-sponsor of the Equality Act, a comprehensive bill that will be introduced in the House to end discrimination against LGBT Americans, just as I was in the last Congress.”
Eight-term Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan, 45, is also seeking the party’s presidential nomination.
The Human Rights Campaign lauded the May 2018 primary victories of pro-LGBT Ohio politicians, including Ryan. “HRC was proud to work on behalf of pro-equality candidates in these crucial races up and down the ballot, and will continue to mobilize our hundreds of thousands of members and supporters in Ohio to turn out for equality in the general election,” said HRC Ohio State Manager Shawn Copeland.
Much of a candidate’s past can be mined from LGBTQ media coverage in their home state or city, much as Chicago’s Windy City Times made national headlines in 2009 when the newspaper reported out the complete answers then-state senate candidate Obama gave in 1996 to a questionnaire from Outlines newspaper (which merged with Windy City Times in 2000). That survey showed that Obama supported marriage equality, even though he supported only civil unions for same-sex couples in 2009.
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