South Bend mayor comes out in op-ed: “being more open about it could do some good.”

Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, publicly came out as gay yesterday in an op-ed in The South Bend Tribune, writing that while “I’m not used to viewing this as anyone else’s business…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.

As Buttigieg wrote, when he graduated high school in South Bend in 2000, there were nearly a thousand students. While “[s]tatistically, that means that several dozen were gay or lesbian,” he never encountered another LGBT student. They were all closeted, presumably for fear of the social repercussions associated with being out.

Buttigieg went on to blast the state’s recently-passed Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and noted that it remains legal in Indiana (though not in South Bend) to fire someone for being gay. Both cases put Indiana out of step with the nation as a whole, which opposes giving employers the right to fire someone over their sexual orientation so much that they don’t even know it isn’t already illegal in many states.

As Mayor Buttigieg noted, since the point needs to be reiterated in Indiana, being gay has nothing to do with one’s job performance, no matter the job:

Pete Buttigieg, via Wikimedia Commons

Pete Buttigieg, via Wikimedia Commons

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.

That this is increasingly becoming common knowledge led the mayor to close with what was perhaps his most important point:

I hope that when my children are old enough to understand politics, they will be puzzled that someone like me revealing he is gay was ever considered to be newsworthy. By then, all the relevant laws and court decisions will be seen as steps along the path to equality. But the true compass that will have guided us there will be the basic regard and concern that we have for one another as fellow human beings — based not on categories of politics, orientation, background, status or creed, but on our shared knowledge that the greatest thing any of us has to offer is love.

It shouldn’t be newsworthy when the mayor of a city of over 100,000 people comes out as gay, but it is. Coming out matters, and Pete Buttigieg just made it a little easier for LGBT people across the state of Indiana, and around the country, to be accepted for who they are.

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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5 Responses to “South Bend mayor comes out in op-ed: “being more open about it could do some good.””

  1. DGT says:

    Actually, that’s not true. In many states, it’s perfectly legal to fire someone for their sexual orientation. So they actually can even say that they are firing you for that reason.

  2. Thom Allen says:

    I’m glad he came out. It may be even harder in the South Bend area under the heels of Mother Church. As Buttigieg said, he know of no out gays in his 4 years of high school. Dismal. They need a role model there. Especially after the hate that Pence whipped up.

  3. Indigo says:

    Ah, the joyful optimism of youth! Good for him. That would be South Bend, Indiana? home of the Fighting Irish at Notre Dame? That’s a wonderfully interesting development in that demographic. (Disclaimer: My hometown is nearby. I know and distrust those folks.) He’s picked a mighty big fight there but I bet the South Bend public will go along with him rather than support Notre Dame’s theologians.

  4. nicho says:

    Anyone anywhere in the US can fire you for being gay. What they can’t do is say that they’re firing you for being gay. But if they want, they can just find another reason. Also, since most workers now are part timers or temps (what they now call “contingent workers”) they can just say they don’t need you any more. The only ones who are safe are people who work for unions — which is, of course, why unions needed to be destroyed.

  5. Sally says:

    I think he’s being optimistic. Look at the treatment of blacks and other minorities by cops, by the GOP, by employers, more than 100 years after slavery was abolished and black men could vote. I hope he’s right, and we are progressing, but when 2/3 of the GOP POTUS candidates are openly and proudly anti-gay and all for religious laws to discriminate, I’m not so sure.

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