Pete Buttigieg had a very solid evening at last night’s CNN/HRC Equality Town Hall, fielding questions as the field’s only openly gay candidate, making the political personal.
Wrote Vox: Buttigieg “finally seemed to come out of his shell, presenting himself as both vulnerable with his personal stories and humble to those in the community who don’t share his privilege.”
Said Buttigieg of the struggle of coming out as gay: “What it was like was a civil war because I knew I was different long before I was ready to say that I was gay and long before I was able to acknowledge that that was something that I didn’t have power over.”
Buttigieg answered a question about how he’d advocate for the queer community without being everyone’s preferred definition of gay.
Replied Buttigieg: “The diversity of the LGBTQ community is part of what we have to offer right now. Our country is so torn apart, we’re so fragmented. And here we have the LGBTQ+ world that is everywhere. We are in every state, every community… every family, and that means we can also have the power to build bridges. When somebody is weighing whether to come out or just come to terms with who they are, it’s really important for them to know that they’re going to be accepted. There is no right or wrong way to be gay, to be queer, to be trans.”
Buttigieg also talked about religion, and religious freedom.
Asked an audience member: “As a Christian can you point to any teachings in faith which state things like ‘thou shalt not serve the gays meatloaf in diner’ or other religious verse which provides instruction to the faithful to deny service, housing, or other services to LGBTQ people?”
Replied Buttigieg: “Without telling others how to worship, the Christian tradition that I belong to instructs me to identify with the marginalized and to recognize that the greatest thing that any of us has to offer is love. Religious liberty is an important principle in this country and we honor that. It’s the case that any freedom that we honor in this country has limits when it comes to harming other people.”
“We say that the right to free speech does not include the right to yell ‘fire’ in a crowded theater,” added Buttigieg. “A famous justice once said ‘my right to swing my fist ends where someone else’s nose begins.’ And the right to religious freedom ends where religious is being used as an excuse to harm other people.”
Buttigieg’s segment was interrupted by transgender protesters shortly after he took the stage. The protesters yelled “trans lives matter” and “people are dying.”
Said Anderson Cooper: “Let me just point out, there is a long and proud tradition and history in the gay and lesbian and transgender community of protest, and we applaud them for their protest. And they’re absolutely right to be angry and upset at the lack of attention, particularly in the media on the lives of transgender [people of color]…”
Said Buttigieg after the protesters got quiet: “I do want to acknowledge what these demonstrators were speaking about, which is the epidemic of violence against black trans women in this country right now. And I believe or would like to believe that everybody here is committed to ending that epidemic, and that does include lifting up its visibility and speaking to it.”
Buttigieg also talked about the ban on blood donation by gay men, talking about a South Bend blood drive initiative by the mayor’s office: “I remember the moment when I realized that unlike most of the initiatives I spearhead, I can’t lead by example on this one, because my blood is not welcome in this country. And it’s not based on science, it’s based on prejudice.”
As the forum’s only veteran, Buttigieg was able to speak with authority on Trump’s transgender military ban.