Dalila Ali Rajah
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Pete Buttigieg: Religion Shouldn't Excuse Discrimination

Mara Keisling and Pete Buttigieg

Religious freedom should never be used as an excuse to discriminate, Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg said in a new interview with Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality.

Buttigieg, the first openly gay person to seek the Democratic nomination, is the latest candidate to be interviewed for the Transform the White House project of NCTE Action, the center’s political action arm.

Keisling noted that Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., identifies as a person of faith, specifically Christian, as does Mike Pence, the former governor of Indiana and current U.S. vice president. But Buttigieg takes a different view of faith than Pence, who as governor signed a bill that critics said would enable people with certain religious views to discriminate against LGBTQ people and others who offend their faith. The law was eventually amended to allay fears of discrimination.

“The freedom to religious expression — which is very important to me personally — does not mean that you can harm people in the name of religion and say that’s OK,” Buttigieg said. “My message to fellow people of faith on this issue is to remember that when you have policies that try to invoke religion as a way to harm people or exclude people, that isn't just an insult to the separation of church and state — it’s an insult to religion. Every faith tradition I know of, certainly the Christian tradition I belong to, speaks so much about needing to support those who are marginalized, those who are most vulnerable, those who are ostracized. The entire New Testament is full of stories that teach us about the importance of lifting one another up. And what you see is, in my view, a very narrow, dim, and even backwards idea of what religion is about when people would use it as a pretext to exclude trans Americans or any Americans.”

Buttgieg also said South Bend’s LGBTQ-inclusive antidiscrimination ordinance, enacted early in his tenure as mayor and before he came out, was a recognition that all people are dependent on one another. He promised that if elected president, he will urge Congress to pass the Equality Act, which would establish such protections nationwide, and immediately overturn Donald Trump’s transgender military ban, which he called “the ultimate insult” to trans service members.

Buttigieg this week came in second among Democratic candidates in Iowa, the first state to hold a vote in the primary season, in a poll by Iowa State University and the Civiqs polling organization. He was favored by 20 percent of voters likely to attend the Iowa caucus, to be held February 3, second only to U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who came in at 28 percent. U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders was third, with 18 percent, and former Vice President Joe Biden sank to fourth, with 12 percent. The ISU/Civiqs poll last month had Warren in first, Biden and Sanders tied for second, and Buttigieg behind them. The South Bend mayor was third in another poll this month, from Suffolk University and USA Today.

Other Democratic presidential candidates who have been interviewed for the project are former Vice President Joe Biden, Sens. Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders, Kirsten Gillibrand (now out of the race), and Amy Klobuchar; and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro. Watch Buttigieg’s interview below.

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