One of the nation's youngest mayors, Pete Buttigieg surprised his city today by coming out as gay.
South Bend, Indiana has a population of just over 100,000 people. It's a conservative town, settled by Polish Catholics. Its largest employer is the University of Notre Dame. And it has a gay mayor.
Democratic Mayor Pete Buttigieg is 32 years old. He is a Rhodes Scholar and a Harvard grad, and he served in Afghanistan, where he was a Lieutenant in the Navy.
"I was well into adulthood before I was prepared to acknowledge the simple fact that I am gay," Buttigieg wrote in a lengthy op-ed published in today's local paper. "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," he acknowledges. "We Midwesterners are instinctively private to begin with, and I'm not used to viewing this as anyone else's business."
Mayor Buttigieg explains why it's so important for LGBT people, and for him, to come out, saying, "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."
The Advocate calls Buttigieg "a rising star in Indiana Democrat politics," and Salon adds that he "was first elected Mayor of South Bend in 2011 with 74% of the vote, temporarily left his post as mayor to serve seven months in Afghanistan as a lieutenant in the US Navy Reserves and participated in protests against the war in Iraq while a student at Harvard."
Buttigieg doesn't say if he's seeing anyone but he does notes he "would like to get married one day and eventually raise a family."
And he offers his constituents these wise words about equality in the future: "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 â€” 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."
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