Back in 2015, South Bend, Ind.’s mayor, Pete Buttigieg, came out of the closet as a gay man. Asked about the news, Indiana governor, Mike Pence, simply responded, “I hold Mayor Buttigieg in the highest personal regard. I see him as a dedicated public servant and a patriot.”
A year earlier, Buttigieg had been deployed to Afghanistan as a member of the U.S. Naval Reserve. According to the Indianapolis Star, “a noticeably moved Pence called Buttigieg the day he was driving to the base.”
There is no evidence that Pence has ever said an unkind word about or done an unkind thing to Buttigieg.
So, naturally, Buttigieg is attacking Pence as a homophobic bigot nearly every day on the campaign trail. Appearing on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Buttigieg sneered, “He’s nice. If he were here, you would think he’s a nice guy to your face. But he’s also fanatical.” Speaking at the LGBTQ Victory Fund National Champagne Brunch in Washington, Buttigieg tore into Pence’s supposed intolerance: “That’s the thing I wish the Mike Pences of the world would understand. That if you got a problem with who I am, your problem is not with me — your quarrel, sir, is with my creator.” This week, Buttigieg tweeted, clearly in reference to Pence, “People will often be polite to you in person, while advancing policies that harm you and your family. You will be polite to them in turn, but you need not stand for such harms. Instead, you push back, honestly and emphatically. So it goes, in the public square.”
This is a change for Buttigieg, whose best-selling memoir contains no negative references about Pence but complains of “the complications of being openly gay in Mike Pence’s Indiana.” That phraseology is more a critique of Pence’s policy preferences than his personality. Fair enough.
But Buttigieg is no longer operating in good faith. Now he’s attacking Christians who disagree with his policies and support Trump (“the hypocrisy is unbelievable”); he’s castigating Pence as a religious homophobe, characterizing him as an obstacle to tolerance. Why? Because it is far more convenient to cast Pence as a close-minded bigot than it is to respect him as a political opponent.
This has become a particularly popular tactic on the Left. When Pence swore in Senator Doug Jones (D., Ala.), the Leftist internet completely manufactured a narrative wherein Pence was deeply uncomfortable with Jones’s gay son (Newsweek’s headline: “Doug Jones’ Gay Son Gives Mike Pence Serious Side-Eye”). Gay Olympian Adam Rippon randomly decided to tear into Pence by stating that “for Mike Pence to say he’s a devout Christian man is completely contradictory.” When gay Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar and his husband attended breakfast with Pence, the media attempted to push a narrative about Pence’s supposed discomfort. When Pence’s wife began teaching at a Christian school, the media leapt to label her an anti-gay maniac.
There is no evidence for any of this. Pence has been dealing with gay men, including Buttigieg, his entire career. He differs from them on the definition of marriage. While I believe the government ought to exit the business of marriage altogether, there are plenty of public-policy reasons to stand for traditional marriage that aren’t rooted in animus.
More than that, it betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of religious people to suggest that their belief in the immorality of certain sexual behavior reflects animus for those who engage in that sexual behavior. Religious people generally believe that we all sin; that we all struggle with sin; and that participating in one particular type of sin doesn’t mean that the sinner is somehow inferior to those who engage in other types of sin.
Frankly, it’s bewildering that the Left seems so concerned about Mike Pence’s personal beliefs on the sinfulness of homosexual activity. Why should Buttigieg care? More than that, is there any justification for attributing malign motives to Pence, both in terms of public policy and in terms of religious observance?
Buttigieg should know better. After all, he quite rightly stated of Chick-fil-A, “I do not approve of their politics, but I kind of approve of their chicken.” But he’s forgotten moderation in pursuit of intersectional glory in the Democratic primaries. And that glory can only be had, apparently, at the price of slandering a good man who disagrees with him on the nature of sin and on public policy.