Mayor Pete: I Have Things to Repent For - But Loving Chasten Isn't One of Them

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Thursday May 23, 2019

Openly gay Democratic 2020 hopeful and mayor of South Bend, Indiana Pete Buttigieg stood strong in the face of attacks from the Christian right during a May 22 Q&A event in New York, reports Huffpost.

Commenting on remarks by Vice President Mike Pence and an attack from evangelical preacher and ardent Trump supporter Franklin Graham, Buttigieg took a more traditional approach to Christianity than that of finger-pointing anti-LGBTQ religious leaders.

"I guess I would say that we all have a lot to repent for," Buttigieg said, according to the Huffpost account.

But his marriage, Buttigieg went on to say, is not among those things.

Graham lashed out at Buttigieg last month, tweeting about the "sin" of same-sex relationships and declaring that the Bible defines marriage as being between one man and one woman.

Graham's tweets skirted the issue of President Trump's three marriages and Trump's self-proclaimed extramarital adventures, such as the infamous recording in which Trump had boasted that celebrity status enables a male to do anything he pleases to women, including "grab[bing] them by the pussy" — a shocking comment that evangelical voters shrugged off in the final stretch of the 2016 elections.

Evangelicals have rapturously stood by the president ever since, with leader of a religious hate group brushing aside the evident hypocrisy by saying that Trump supporters of faith have given the president "a mulligan" for his transgressions. Trump seems likely to remain in the good graces of American evangelicals regardless of his conduct as long as he continues to promote religious privilege over civil rights.

Contrary to Graham's assertion, the Bible is stocked with revered patriarchs who had multiple wives and concubines. Passages that are interpreted as condemning gay people for their sexuality are notoriously cherry-picked, with text regarding other so-called "sins" — the wearing of blended fabrics, the consumption of meat and dairy products in the same dish, or the eating of certain foods, including shellfish — glossed over and ignored.

True to form, Graham tweeted of Buttigieg that being gay is a "sin, something to be repentant of, not something to be flaunted, praised or politicized."

Buttigieg responded with conviction — and perfect clarity. "I have a lot to repent for when it comes to my marriage," the candidate said, according to Huffpost. "Moments when I have not been as caring as I should be, moments when I've been selfish, moments when I've said a harsh word that I wish I could take back, but one thing that I absolutely should not be repentant for in the context of my marriage is the fact that I'm in love with my husband."

Buttigieg's meteoric rise continues, with the Indiana mayor now making inroads even where other Democratic hopefuls have enjoyed popularity. Bloomberg reported that some voters who were passionate about Beto O'Rourke have now begin to embrace Buttigieg. As one likely voter put it, "I don't feel like [Buttigieg] is digging into a bag and pulling out an answer" to tough political questions.

Another mused about Buttigieg's "gravitas," and wondered whether O'Rourke could match it.

Overall, former Vice President Joe Biden currently leads the pack in a crowded Democratic field of presidential contenders. Biden commands the field with 37.6%, a May 22 Vox article said, with Bernie Sanders trailing behind at 18.2%. Buttigieg, with 6.6%, comes in fifth, behind Elizabeth Warren (9.6%) and Kamala Harris (7.4%). But his candidacy remains remarkable for the sheer speed with which Buttigieg surged from being virtually unknown to national recognition. Buttigieg and husband Chasten were even featured on the cover of TIME Magazine that was graced with the headline "First Family," a reference to how Buttigieg's marriage to Chasten, far from being a liability, has helped propel his candidacy.

The fact that Buttigieg is married to another man will certainly matter to some — and not just the anti-LGBTQ contingent. Many in the gay community are thrilled to see one of their own mounting a serious campaign and being taken seriously as he does so. But Buttigieg seems to aiming for broader appeal, noting of himself that he is a Millennial candidate — not an insignificant fact, given that Millennials outstrip even the Baby Boomers at their peak in terms of sheer numbers.

Younger voters are also less concerned about who someone else has or has not married. Acceptance of LGBTQ people and their relationships is more commonplace among younger Americans than their elders, even among evangelicals — some of whom are starting to wonder about of older generations.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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