Democratic lawmakers said there are no longer same levels of homophobia
Democratic lawmakers identifying as lesbian, gay or bisexual have said that American voters will soon be ready to for gay American president, according to a report from The Hill.
Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) said that a lot had changed since he ran for local office back in the 1990s, predicting that that South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D) would not be faced with the same levels of homophobia that may have derailed his previous election cycle.
“People would send an article back with my face crossed out, putting ‘dead faggot’ underneath it. And it was a very tough time 25 years ago,” Pocan told The Hill.
“But I think where most of America’s at is a very different place, and I don’t think it should be any barrier for anyone, whether it be Mayor Pete, [Wisconsin Democratic Sen.] Tammy Baldwin or anyone else. I think that people are ready for it.”
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Chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.), said that being gay helps Buttigieg stand out in the crowded Democratic presidential field.
“I’m admiring of the way he speaks the language of spirituality and religion in a way that I think communicates a set of values. And I admire the way that he has appropriated a space,” Takano said.
Takano noted the comparisons to his 1994 House campaign which proved unsuccessful, to running in 2012 when his sexual orientation barely showed up on the radar.
He also noted LGBT candidates winning in competitive succeeding in competitive races around the country last year, those included:
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.),
and freshmen Reps. Sharice Davids (D-Kan.) and Angie Craig (D-Minn.).
“In the early ’90s, I think being gay was seen, as a politician, as a liability,” Takano said.
“I still have a little PTSD” from the 1994 campaign.
“My struggle in 2012 was actually for the press to even pay attention to it.”
According to a recent survey from the Quinnipiac University Poll, 70 percent o voters said they were open to electing a gay man as president.
But 52 percent said that they didn’t believe the country is ready to vote for a gay man.
“We need to deal with homophobia in the black community,” Sharpton told Buttigieg.
“You should be judged on your merits. We can’t fight against bigotry based on race if we’re going to be bigots based on sexual orientation.”
Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) agreed with Sharpton.
“He’s right,” Wilson said.
“I think it’s getting better, and it doesn’t mean that Pete has to give up on the African American community, but it’s fair for [Sharpton] to warn him that it’s a heavy lift.”
A CNN survey released on Tuesday showed Buttigieg polling at 7 percent support nationally, but 3 percent support from nonwhite voters.
Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, noted that African American voters are “not monolithic.”
“Black Americans are no different than the community at large with respect to views on homosexuality, they’re no different,” he said.
“So, I personally don’t believe that our community is any more conservative than any other community when it comes to that issue.”
According to The Hill: Johnson predicted that Buttigieg’s sexual orientation would ultimately not be a factor in the eyes of black voters, who are more interested in how his policies will affect their lives.
“The black community is ready to look beyond sexual orientation and select the person who we feel will best lead our country forward,” he said.
“But I agree that he has to come out and be visible in the African American community regardless of geographic location. He can’t be reticent about who he is and selling who he is and what his programs are.”
Buttigieg was not openly gay in 2011 when he won the first term as mayor of South Bend at age 29. He decided to go public with his sexuality upon returning home from the war in Afghanistan in 2015.
Until then, Buttigieg said he had become an expert at having “separate identities.” But he said the deployment to Kabul made him realize “you only get to be one person” in life.
At the meeting with Sharpton, Buttigieg said his sexuality was not a big issue as he sought reelection in 2015.
“I didn’t know what the politics would be,” Buttigieg said. “I felt like the city would stand with me. … I just said who I was and tried to be treated like anyone else. There was some ugliness. But when the primary day rolled around, I got 78 percent and then in the general election 80 percent, so it showed me most people didn’t care. They were supportive or didn’t care.”
Buttigieg has battled a few anti-gay protesters on the presidential campaign trail. But LGBT lawmakers dismissed them as fringe elements.
“I don’t think most Americans are represented by those protesters,” Takano said.
Rep. Chris Pappas (D-N.H.), a freshman who represents a swing district, said the U.S. is “absolutely” ready to elect a gay president.
Pappas echoed Buttigieg in saying he never once faced a hostile question about his sexual orientation while he was running for Congress.
“Look, in the last three elections an African American candidate and a female candidate won the popular vote, I think that speaks strongly to where the country is at the moment,” Pappas said.
“And in 2018, we saw a Congress get elected that looks more like the rest of America than ever before. This country is leaps and bounds ahead of where it was just ten years ago.”
Freshman Rep. Katie Hill (D-Calif.), who flipped a GOP-held district last fall, said it wasn’t an issue in her campaign
“My district has a history of being one of the most, like homophobic districts. And as an openly [bisexual] woman, I was expecting it to be an issue in my general [election]. And it wasn’t,” Hill said.
Hill has endorsed her fellow Californian, Sen. Kamala Harris, for president.
But when asked whether America is ready for a gay president, Hill said: “I don’t think you become ready for something until we do it, no matter what that is.”