In response to Mike Pence over what has developed into a spat over his anti-LGBT record, Pete Buttigieg shot back Thursday at the vice president for asserting his Christian faith was under attack, saying the issue is not his religion, but “bad policies.”
During an interview on the “Ellen Show” set for broadcast on Friday, host Ellen Degeneres asked Buttigieg about recent comments from Pence in which he said the openly gay 2020 hopeful was attacking his Christian faith and should “knows better.”
Buttigieg made it clear the issue isn’t that Pence is a Christian — a faith both Buttigieg and Pence share — but policies in the name of religion that have hurt LGBT people.
“I’m not critical of his faith; I’m critical of bad policies,” Buttigieg said. “I don’t have a problem with religion. I’m religious too. I have a problem with religion being used as a justification to harm people and especially in the LGBTQ community. So many people, even today, feel like they don’t belong. You can get fired in so many parts of this country just for who you are and that’s got to change.”
Pence’s long anti-LGBT history includes one such initiative that allowed discrimination against LGBT people in the name of religious freedom. In 2015, Pence as Indiana governor signed a “religious freedom” bill that permitted individuals and business to refuse services to LGBT people. Under pressure from LGBT advocates and business community, Pence was forced to sign a “fix” to the law significantly limiting its scope.
Buttigieg also had advice for Pence, saying if the vice president doesn’t want to known as anti-LGBT, he should denounce discrimination against LGBT people.
“And if the VP, I’m not interested in feuding with the vice president, but if he wanted to clear this up, he could come out today and say he’s changed his mind that it shouldn’t be legal to discriminate against anybody in this country for who they are,” Buttigieg said. “That’s all.”
The spat being Buttigieg and Pence started when the 2020 hopeful at the LGBTQ Victory Fund in D.C. invoked the vice president in an emotional speech about the struggle of accepting being gay, saying he wished the “Mike Pences of the world could understand that if you have a problem with who I am, then your problem is not with me, your quarrel is with my Creator.”
Ignoring Pence’s long anti-LGBT history, the right-wing media had a field day over the comments, asserting Buttigieg was unfairly criticizing Pence. The remarks led Pence to say his Christian faith was under attack in an CNBC interview days later.
After Buttigieg responded to Pence on her show, Degeneres followed up by concurring with Buttigieg’s assessment “it’s really a shame” religion is often used as an excuse to discriminate against LGBT people.
“There is nothing wrong with religion and it’s really good for a lot of people and it works for a lot of people, but religion is used sometimes to justify, they say, well, it says here in the bible this,” Degeneres added.
When Degeneres asked Buttigieg, an Episcopalian, how he reconciles his faith with being gay, Buttigieg cautioned his faith need not apply to everyone, but has guided him to help the most vulnerable.
“I think it is important for anybody who steps into a political process to speak for people of any faith and people of no faith,” Buttigieg said. “So, when I talk about my faith its not because I believe it should be imposed on others, but it does guide me. And when I’m in church, the scripture I hear is about taking care of the least among us, it’s about lifting up those who are most vulnerable, and visiting the prisoner and taking care of the sick and welcoming the stranger. That’s what I hear when I hear scripture.”
Ultimately, Buttigieg said not everyone need to share his religious views, but they have influenced his approach to politics.
“It’s a message that is fundamentally about love, love and humility, humbling yourself before God and putting other people before you,” Buttigieg said. “And, again, that doesn’t have to be anybody else’s understanding of religion, but it’s where Christianity takes me. And that does have implications for how I behave in the political space.”
The Washington Blade has placed a request in with the vice president’s office seeking comment on Buttigieg’s call for Pence to clarify he against discrimination against LGBT people.