It seems there has been at least one upside to Indiana Gov. Mike Pence's decision to sign a controversial religious freedom law earlier this year: It's gotten LGBTQ people and allies riled up and showing even more public support for equal rights. Some of that support has come from unexpected places -- including the mayor's office in conservative South Bend, Indiana.
First-term Democratic mayor Pete Buttigieg came out as gay in a stirring editorial on Monday, taking a public stand against Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act and expressing support for nationwide marriage equality. Nothing that his inclination is to remain private about his personal life, Buttigieg explained why he still believes it's important for him to openly identify as gay while he's in office:
I was well into adulthood before I was prepared to acknowledge the simple fact that I am gay. It took years of struggle and growth for me to recognize that it’s just a fact of life, like having brown hair, and part of who I am.
Putting something this personal on the pages of a newspaper does not come easy. We Midwesterners are instinctively private to begin with, and I’m not used to viewing this as anyone else’s business.
But it’s clear to me that at a moment like this, being more open about it could do some good. For a local student struggling with her sexuality, it might be helpful for an openly gay mayor to send the message that her community will always have a place for her. And for a conservative resident from a different generation, whose unease with social change is partly rooted in the impression that he doesn’t know anyone gay, perhaps a familiar face can be a reminder that we’re all in this together as a community. [...]
Being gay has had no bearing on my job performance in business, in the military, or in my current role as mayor. It makes me no better or worse at handling a spreadsheet, a rifle, a committee meeting, or a hiring decision. It doesn’t change how residents can best judge my effectiveness in serving our city: by the progress of our neighborhoods, our economy, and our city services.
Read the rest of Buttigieg's op-ed at the South Bend Tribune.