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Pete Buttigieg Doesn't Mention LGBTQ Rights at Key Iowa Event

Pete Buttigieg Doesn't Mention LGBTQ Rights at Key Iowa Event

Pete Buttigieg
The Late Show

The South Bend, Ind., mayor focused on his Midwestern bona fides and proclaimed the need for unity, hope, and change. 

Pete Buttigieg told a crowd of 13,000 Democrats in Iowa Friday night that he intended to be the kind of president that lowers blood pressure rather than being a "divider in chief."

"I am ready to gather up an American majority that is hungry for change, that is done without division," he said to an excited crowd as the battle for the nomination in Iowa heats up.

Buttigieg, the first of the 13 presidential candidates who spoke at the Iowa Democratic Party's Liberty and Justice Celebration, invoked health care, gun violence, climate change, teacher support, and employment for factory workers as areas of concern.

But he did not, however, mention his plan for LGBTQ equality.

The closest he came to doing so was resolving to "ensure the dignity of every American" -- perhaps a reference to Justice Anthony Kennedy's so-called dignity doctrine in the U.S. Supreme Court decision affirming marriage equality in the United States.

Unlike in past events, Buttigieg did not explicitly identify as a member of the LGBTQ community, though he mentioned deer hunting with his "husband's father" in rural Michigan over Thanksgiving. He also reminded the audience, "You're looking at someone who as a young man growing up wondered if something deep inside of him meant that he would forever be an outsider, would never wear the uniform, never be accepted, never know love."

Instead, Buttigieg played up his Midwestern bona fides and military history in contrast with President Donald Trump and many of his competitors for the Democratic primary.

"I don't go to work in an office in Washington, D.C.," Buttigieg said, referring to his role as mayor of South Bend, Ind. "My office is about six hours that way down I-80, here in the Midwest."

Buttigieg spoke about the individuals he'd encountered around the country, largely in the Heartland, who seemed ready to reject Trump's policymaking: an immigrant in Ohio who had asked about agriculture's role in climate change, a diner full of Indiana conservatives who protested the deportation of their neighbor "they knew to be a good man," and the teen who had written a will out of fear of being killed in a school shooting.

Touching on health care, Buttigieg characterized his "Medicare for all who want it" plan as the "most progressive reform to health care in 50 years," describing it as "honoring your decision over whether and when you want it."

His proposal, which would allow individuals to choose between private insurers and a public option, is a clear departure point between his campaign and that of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, California Sen. Kamala Harris, and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, all of whom have supported various versions of "Medicare for All."

Booker and Secretary Julian Castro appeared to be the only candidates at the event who explicitly mentioned LGBTQ rights.

Buttigieg, who faced criticism following a leaked internal memo that suggested his sexuality was a barrier among Black focus groups, vowed "to tackle systemic racism wherever we find it until your race in this country has no bearing on your health, or your wealth, your life expectancy or your relationship with law enforcement."

Earlier this week, Buttigieg's campaign sent out an email likening his campaign to that of another trailblazer, Barack Obama, and said this speech would serve as similarly historic as it did for the former president in 2007.

"My name is Larry Grisolano and I'm a senior messaging advisor for Pete -- just like I was for the then-Senator Barack Obama in 2007," the message stated. "Pete's campaign this year is rekindling the same excitement I felt at this time in 2007."

And indeed, Buttigieg seemed to be playing on Obama's rhetoric of hope and change. He promised to "include everyone in this future we are trying to build: progressives, moderates, and Republicans of conscience who are ready for a change."

"The time has come," Buttigieg said to roaring applause. "We will fight when we must fight, but I will never allow us to get so wrapped up in the fighting that we think fighting is the point."

"The point is what lies on the other side of the fight," he continued. "And what lies on the other side of that fight is the hope of an American experience defined not by exclusion but by belonging."

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