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EXCLUSIVE: Chasten Buttigieg hits the campaign trail for Biden

Trump ‘is the biggest threat standing between our community and full equality’

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Chasten Buttigieg (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Chasten Buttigieg spoke with the Washington Blade by phone on June 18 for an exclusive interview at the tail end of his trip to Michigan and Wisconsin with the Biden-Harris campaign’s “Out for Biden” national organizing effort targeting LGBTQ voters.

The teacher, author, LGBTQ activist, and husband to U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg relayed some of the conversations he has had with constituents and communities about issues important to them and the reasons why they are rallying around the president and vice president’s reelection bid.

“I like to get out of Washington, and I like to get on the ground and meet voters where they’re at and hear them out and talk about why I’m supporting the president,” he said. “And to me, that is just the realness of politics.”

Buttigieg said spending time with the local volunteers and organizers was a reminder of the many “good people that make up this country and all of the people who are fighting day in and day out to make these things happen,” usually without much fanfare.

He said he feels especially at home doing this work in the Midwest. In 2022, a year after they adopted twins, the Buttigiegs moved to Traverse City, Mich., where the family is now close to Chasten’s parents. “It’s obviously easier to hop across the lake and come over to Wisconsin, where I spent a lot of years in college and post college, so this is home,” he told the Blade.

“In a way, these feel like my neighbors. And to me, the best political work that I can be doing is talking with my neighbors and talking with folks that I care about and communities that I care about.”

LGBTQ people have multiple identities

“There are a lot of people on the ground here who, of course, support the president because he is the only person on the ballot who is a pro-LGBTQ and equality president, but also there are many other issues that affect our community, many people on the ground here working to make those things happen,” Buttigieg said.

Additionally, “supporting queer Americans isn’t just defending our right to exist or our right to marry,” he said, “but many of these other issues that the president and the vice president support are queer issues” too, including reproductive freedom and access to in-vitro fertilization.

“LGBTQ Americans have families,” Buttigieg said. “We’re LGBTQ, but also we’re business owners, we’re farmers, we’re teachers, we’re parents. These are all uniquely queer issues as well.”

“For me, as a parent and as a teacher, some of these things like expanding the Child Tax Credit, making sure that every family has access to quality, affordable early childhood education and public education, and making sure that every family has access to paid leave — to me, that should not be political,” Buttigieg said.

“Unfortunately, it is in this environment. But those are pro-family policies. I think they’re pro- American policies. And that’s why I am proud to support the president and the vice president.”

The Out for Biden team is engaging with parents who are raising LGBTQ children. Buttigieg said he was “talking to a parent of a young trans kid who’s worried about not only access to health care here in the state of Wisconsin,” but also the rhetoric from leaders on the right like the presumptive GOP nominee, former President Donald Trump, who are “attacking their child simply for being who they are.”

Buttigieg said they also visited a small business owned by a queer woman in Milwaukee and learned about how the business expanded during COVID and why they’re supporting the president because of his work protecting queer Americans, small businesses, and reproductive rights.

Conversations drive voting behavior

“Oftentimes, the only reason a person is going to go into that ballot box and pull the lever in our direction is because someone they love or trust asked them to and explained what was on the line for them,” Buttigieg said.

These conversations “helped them understand how politics is deeply personal for them, and how the choices that are made in those big, white buildings in Washington trickle down to our mailboxes, our dining room tables, our doctors’ offices, and our classrooms,” he said.

“Politics is deeply personal, and we shouldn’t be afraid to show a little vulnerability and tell our neighbors and the people that we love what we stand to gain, what we stand to lose,” Buttigieg added.

He explained some of the ways he has approached these discussions, drawing from his own lived experiences.

“I often talk about my experience in the classroom, not only as a as an openly gay teacher, but as the teacher who was running lockdown drills,” Buttigieg said. “I never, ever wanted to traumatize my students with lockdown drills, talking about a gunman coming into the school, recognizing that gun violence is the number one cause of death among young people in this country — I would have rather been spending my time teaching instead of frightening my students.”

Growing up, Buttigieg said his parents were small business owners who “didn’t have a ton of money” and often were “making sacrifices to support their three kids rather than affording mom’s medicine.”

“That’s deeply personal stuff,” he said. This election will be won because Democrats are willing to go out there and tell those deeply personal stories, and move their neighbors and move their friends and families off the couch into the streets and hopefully to the ballot box to pull that lever in the direction that I believe will make our country safer and better because we reelected Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.”

Making the case for Biden — and the case against Trump

Noting that the president and vice president have repeatedly called for Congress to enshrine federal LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination protections by passing the Equality Act, Buttigieg added that, “It’s not just policy, it’s the words that come out of their mouths, and it’s the actions.”

“I often hear the quip, ‘vote for the person you trust to leave your kids with,'” Buttigieg said. “Joe Biden has been an incredibly supportive president. When our kid was fighting for his life on a ventilator at two months old, the president was eager to pull Pete aside and remind him that the entire administration had our family’s back and was there for us.”

“That’s the kind of leader I want for this country, someone who cares about families,” he said. “Not just families like mine, but all families. That’s really important to me.”

“And on the other side, you have someone like Donald Trump, who, of course, is not going to acknowledge the reason that we have Pride, the reason for the march, the reason for resistance, the reason for action, but is actively surrounding himself with people who are propping up Project 2025,” Buttigieg said.

The 881-page governing blueprint for a second Trump term “threatens many of these hard-fought protections for the LGBTQ community,” he said.

Another consideration is “that the next president of the United States might appoint two more Supreme Court justices to join a bench [that] was already flirting with overturning Obergefell,” Buttigieg said, referring to the precedent that made same-sex marriage the law of the land, and noting that the court “already upheld their promise to overturn a woman’s right to choose.”

Buttigieg said, “I think it’s actually really embarrassing” for the anti-LGBTQ right “that the majority of Americans support LGBTQ equality,” meaning “they’re not only against the majority of the public opinion, but they’re also against people in their own party who are so exhausted by the divisive rhetoric, and yet here they are doubling down on their hatred for queer people.”

With respect to Trump himself, he said “if he wanted to get with the times, and if he wanted to maybe potentially save a little face with his party and push them in another direction and say, ‘hey, actually, I think we should step back, I think we should leave queer people alone, especially young, vulnerable trans Americans alone,’ he would.”

“But he won’t, and he hasn’t, because that’s who he is,” Buttigieg said. “If Donald Trump wanted you to believe that he didn’t really care one way or the other about the existence of LGBTQ Americans and their protections, he would let you know. The words and the actions that come from your campaign inform the country of what your values are, and if Donald Trump truly cared, then he would let us know.

Instead, “he surrounds himself with known bigots, white supremacists” and “with people who are touting Project 2025” who “are rallying against the existence of Pride and LGBTQ Americans and those hard fought protections that Democrats are winning and enacting around this country.”

“Maya Angelou said, ‘when people show you who they are, believe it the first time,'” Buttigieg said. “Donald Trump does not support our community. I think Donald Trump would be the most disastrous president for our community. And he is the biggest threat standing between our community and full equality.”

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Garcia and Log Cabin Republicans president react to new GOP party platform

RNC had not issued a new position manifesto since 2016

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Former President Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Committee at National Harbor, Md., on March 4, 2023. (Screen capture via Vimeo)

Following the issuance of the Republican Party’s first new policy platform since 2016, U.S. Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) and Charles Moran, president of the conservative LGBTQ group Log Cabin Republicans, shared their reactions this week with the Washington Blade.

Unlike previous iterations, including in 2016 and 2012, the 2024 version contains no mention of same-sex marriage and very little discussion about abortion, issues long championed by the religious right factions of the party.

Still, the document calls for banning transgender girls and women from competing in girls and women’s sports, as well as a proposal to cut federal funding for “any school pushing critical race theory, radical gender ideology, and other inappropriate racial, sexual, or political content on our children.”

“We will keep men out of women’s sports, ban taxpayer funding for sex change surgeries, and stop taxpayer-funded schools from promoting gender transition, reverse Biden’s radical rewrite of Title IX education regulations, and restore protections for women and girls,” the platform says.

“Republicans will ensure children are taught fundamentals like reading, history, science, and math, not leftwing propaganda,” according to the document. “We will defund schools that engage in inappropriate political indoctrination of our children using federal taxpayer dollars.”

Garcia, an openly gay co-chair of the Congressional Equality Caucus, told the Blade by phone on Tuesday that the language is of a piece of the party’s efforts across the board to restrict rights, freedoms, and protections from many of America’s most vulnerable.

“The platform is the platform,” he said. “It’s reactionary. It moves us backwards. It does not support diverse communities.”

What is more important, however, than “the Republican platform, Project 2025, all of these ideas and proposals,” Garcia said, is the question of “who’s going to implement these.”

“Look at what Donald Trump is actually saying,” Garcia said. “That should scare us. He’s saying he’s going to deport undocumented people across the country. He’s saying he’s going to empower fossil fuel and oil companies in public. He’s saying that he doesn’t support unions. He’s saying all of these horrible things. I think we should take him for his word.”

“We should already know that he’s going to do what he says. He’s saying he’s going to jail his political opponents,” the congressman added. “This is insane. So, I think that is much more instructive than any party platform or other conversation happening right now.”

Project 2025, the exhaustively detailed governing blueprint for a second Trump term that was published by the right-wing Heritage Foundation think tank, “is finally starting to get more attention,” Garcia said.

Unlike the party platform, the 900-page document reads like a wishlist for the most right-wing conservative Christian flanks of the GOP — with proposals to criminalize all pornography, for instance, and to revoke LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination protections for federal government employees.

“I wish that over the last two days we were talking about Project 2025,” said Garcia.

House Democrats, who had just returned from the July 4 break, had been inundated with questions about whether President Joe Biden should continue leading the party’s 2024 ticket after a shaky debate performance last month exacerbated concerns about his age.

“Moving forward,” he said, Project 2025 “needs to get more attention, and I’m hopeful that it will.”

Also speaking with the Blade on Tuesday was Moran, who had attended a Log Cabin Republicans fundraiser on Monday that former first lady Melania Trump hosted and netted $1.4 million. The event was the first to be held in the Trump Tower residence since her husband launched his 2024 campaign.

“Project 2025 is like a kid’s Christmas wish list — and it has just as much chance of coming to fruition as Santa Claus coming down that chimney,” he said. “It’s just not reality.”

“On July 5, President Trump posted on Truth Social disavowing Project 2025 and officials on the campaign had been saying the same for months,” Moran added. “Those who continue to conflate that private think-tank manifesto with the official RNC Platform or the President’s own policy portfolio, Agenda 47, are knowingly deceiving voters which shows a level of desperation leading them to lie rather than dealing with the reality at hand.”

By contrast, the platform has Trump written all over it, Moran said.

“Even though I was not on the platform committee, it was clear those in leadership understood that the process had been commandeered in the past by special interests and those trying to use intimidation and fear to bully their influence into the final document,” he said. “The RNC took steps to ensure a clean, orderly and accessible drafting process.”

As a result of influence peddling by special interest groups, “the platform continued to be an albatross around the necks of common-sense Republicans,” providing opportunities for Democrats to portray their political opponents as anti-gay, for example, since the document historically took a position against same-sex marriage.

“The 2016 platform was crafted under the influence of Ted Cruz’s delegates, veering it in a much more conservative direction on gay issues,” Moran said. “President Trump made it clear that he wasn’t aligned with the 2016 platform, and if the full RNC convention would have been held in 2020, it would have been changed then.”

Moran added that while “the platform process has historically been influenced by paid lobbyists representing special interests trying to game the system for their client’s pet projects and desires,” this year “presented President Trump with his first opportunity to genuinely make the GOP platform represent the modern Republican Party, and make it represent an inclusive, America-First context.”

Moran said the new platform is a reflection of the campaign’s strategy and approach to this election.

“I believe the president knew that the old platform made the GOP uncompetitive in major geographic and critical demographic areas,” he said. “The platform was definitely worth fighting over, because we know that the presidential nominee needs to get the party in the best position possible to appeal to the broadest number of people.”

“This is a platform that is inclusive of many communities, including LGBT Americans,” Moran said. “It promotes the sanctity of marriage, but doesn’t exclude our marriages. It supports IVF, which is the principle way same-sex couples build families.”

“This is a pro-family platform,” he added, “but it provides a place for our families too.”

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Republican National Convention expected to address LGBTQ issues

The Washington Blade will be reporting from Milwaukee next week

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LGBT rights, Donald Trump, gay news, Washington Blade
Former President Donald Trump (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Washington Blade will be in Milwaukee next week covering the Republican National Convention, which is expected to include events and discussions concerning LGBTQ issues.

  • GRACE, the gender research advocacy council and education, will host a media availability at the RNC next week with Alaina Kupec, its founder and president, and Executive Director Jennifer Williams.

Williams is a city councilmember representing Trenton, N.J., the first transgender woman elected to a municipal office in the state, and a registered Republican. Kupec, who is also trans, is a Navy veteran who has served in executive level positions at biopharmaceutical companies.

GRACE was founded to “assist other groups in addressing misinformation about transgender people,” as Kupec told Bay Area Reporter. The organization has also focused on engaging conservatives and moderates, including through a series of ads spotlighting right-leaning, Christian fathers of trans children.

The organization notes that the 2024 Republican Party platform included “references to the transgender community.”

  • On July 15, the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing think tank, will host “Heritage Policy Fest: Fighting for America’s Future.”

The group’s Project 2025, a 900+ page governing agenda for a second Trump administration, would repeal LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination protections and direct the federal government to advance principles of Christian nationalism.

The Biden-Harris 2024 Campaign has sought to bring attention to Project 2025 and tie it to Trump’s candidacy, as the document contains extreme policy proscriptions including a proposal to criminalize all pornography.

  • The anti-LGBTQ group Moms for Liberty will host “Giving Americans a Voice Town Hall” on July 16.

The group, which is considered a far-right extremist organization by the Southern Poverty Law Center and has close ties to the Republican Party, has sought to ban books with LGBTQ characters or themes and its members have harassed and intimidated educators and school officials.

  • Log Cabin Republicans, the conservative LGBTQ group, will host a Big Tent Event on July 17.

Former first lady Melania Trump hosted a fundraiser for the organization on Monday at the Trumps’ penthouse in Trump Tower, raising $1.4 million according to the New York Post. The event was the 2024 campaign’s first that was held at the couple’s residence.

  • On July 18, the anti-LGBTQ Faith and Freedom Coalition will host a prayer breakfast.

The organization, led by Ralph Reed, former executive director of the Christian Coalition, opposes same-sex marriage and “transgender ideology.”

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Rep. Garcia on why he’s standing behind Biden

HRC: ‘We are proud to stand by our endorsement’ of the president

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U.S. Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) (Screen capture: YouTube/MSNBC)

After congressional Democrats emerged from closed-door meetings on Tuesday, House and Senate leaders reassured the media of their continued support for President Joe Biden in his bid for reelection.

As lawmakers returned from the July 4 break this week, a handful of Democrats publicly urged the president to step aside, following a debate performance last month that worsened concerns regarding the candidate’s age, signs of a potential decline in his mental acuity, and questions over his ability to bring the vigor necessary to lead the ticket.

However, speaking with the Washington Blade on Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) shared his thoughts on why “it is time to move forward” from Biden’s debate performance and “focus on attacking Donald Trump and the dangers that he poses.”

The congressman was clear that colleagues who have a different opinion should feel free to express their concerns — and, to that end, he said leadership has “been incredible in hearing members who have sought out input” from them.

“The president had a rough debate, and I think he recognizes that, and I think we all recognize that it was not a great moment,” he said. “I respect the people that have had those concerns and the conversation that’s happened since, so, I get that.”

“Personally, I’ve known from day one that Joe Biden is going to be our nominee,” Garcia said. “He reinforced that with everyone, and it is time to move forward. I’ve been behind the president and the vice president. I continue to be.”

Every day the Democratic Party continues having these conversations internally, “we’re not out there defeating Donald Trump,” the congressman added. “I think for some folks it’s going to take some time for them to feel comfortable, and that’s OK [but] I’m ready to go. I’m fired up and ready to go.”

Garcia, who’s gay, serves as a vice-chair of the Congressional Equality Caucus, alongside some LGBTQ Democratic members who agree with his position, like Ritchie Torres (N.Y.), and others who do not, like Mark Takano (Calif.) and Angie Craig (Minn.), who have called for Biden to step aside.

When it comes to LGBTQ voters, “from our perspective, I think we’ve just got to understand that we have the most pro-LGBTQ+ administration in the history of politics in front of us, and we have Donald Trump on the other side,” Garcia said. “Those are our choices.”

“You don’t have to love every choice you make, but we have to understand the stakes, and we have to understand that there is a binary choice,” he said. “Every person that’s not voting, or not voting for Joe Biden, is certainly empowering Donald Trump. That’s the reality of the moment we’re in.”

Asked how the Biden-Harris campaign can outrun the speculation about the president’s age and the calls from some Democrats for him to step aside, Garcia said “the president has to continue what he’s been doing for the last couple of days. And I think what you’ve seen in the last few days is a fighting Joe Biden.”

“Joe Biden is proving that if he’s going to get punched in the nose, he’s going to punch back twice as hard,” the congressman said. “And I think that is where the campaign is headed, and what needs to continue to happen.”

Weathering the moment in which “the president did have this really bad debate night,” Garcia said, has “also invigorated the campaign and him” with Biden and his team realizing “this is serious, we have a real challenge, here. And let’s get this done.”

Kelley Robinson, president of the Human Rights Campaign, America’s largest LGBTQ rights organization and a group that has made major investments in Biden’s reelection effort, also reaffirmed her support for the president in a statement to the Blade on Tuesday.

“Donald Trump and his Project 2025 agenda pose an existential threat to our rights, freedom, and democracy itself,” she said. “Our job remains the same: defeat him. Biden-Harris is the ticket to do it and we are proud to stand by our endorsement.”

Asked for comment, a GLAAD spokesperson said “as a [501]C3 nonprofit org, we focus on voter and reporter info and resources, to inform about elevate facts on the candidates’ records and statements about LGBTQ people.”

The spokesperson referred the Blade to a statement by the group’s president, Sarah Kate Ellis, which was issued shortly after Biden’s televised debate against Trump.

“Media must do their job to ask questions of candidates about their records and plans for and against LGBTQ people. Our community is enduring an onslaught of attacks on our lives and fundamental freedoms. Everything from our marriages to our ability to have children to keeping schools safe for LGBTQ youth is on the ballot.

“The candidates’ records are very clear, and voters need to be informed about this history to make the best decisions. Reporters and moderators must challenge candidate rhetoric for facts about abortion, immigration, inflation, and the security of each person’s vote.

“CNN failed to find time in 90 minutes to ask about Project 2025, the fascist fever dream that is laying a path for anti-LGBTQ zealots to weaponize the government to fully eliminate abortion access and LGBTQ people from equal access in American life.

“Accurate information is essential for voters to choose a leader who values the truth, decency, and who will work to ensure freedom and equality for all Americans.”

The GLAAD accountability project includes detailed entries for Trump and Biden, detailing the candidates’ records on and rhetoric concerning LGBTQ matters.

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