The importance of an Indiana mayor’s coming out

There has been a lot in the news as of late about gay rights, and as the Supreme Court gets ever closer to its landmark ruling on same-sex marriage the conversation becomes even more amped and potent. Throw in the fever pitch of the ramping up 2016 presidential campaign (Trump 2016?!) and you’ve got plenty of hot-button issues that the 24-hour news cycle is constantly debating.

Now, just this week, a mayor in Indiana’s fourth largest city has publicly come out as gay. Pete Buttigieg, the Democratic mayor of South Bend, writes in a moving editorial that he decided to take his orientation public because, “it might be helpful for an openly gay mayor to send the message that [the] community will always have a place for [them].” Amen to that.

Buttigieg, (which is pronounced “Budda Judge”), says he was inspired to make his orientation public in the lead up to the Supreme Court’s decision later this month, adding that his sexual orientation has nothing to do with his elected responsibilities. He also mentions a very upsetting reality, “Today it remains legal in most parts of Indiana (though not South Bend) to fire someone simply for being gay, and bullying still contributes to tragically high suicide rates among LGBT teens.”

Buttigieg then goes on to say something 100% true, which unfortunately not 100% of people fully believe or understand, “Being gay has had no bearing on my job performance in business, in the military or in my current role as mayor. It makes me no better or worse at handling a spreadsheet, a rifle, a committee meeting or a hiring decision,” he writes.

His op-ed becomes especially poignant when considering how earlier this year, Indiana lawmakers introduced a highly-controversial bill that would essentially allow business owners the right to refuse service to anyone, including gay and lesbian customers in the name of “religious freedom.”

The mayor said he hopes his public declaration will prove a point to those struggling with bigotry and fear, and move the conservative state toward a place where someone’s sexual orientation doesn’t make the news or make others question their ability to do a job.

“Whenever I’ve come out to friends and family,” Buttigieg writes, “they’ve made clear that they view this as just a part of who I am. Their response makes it possible to feel judged not by sexual orientation but by the things that we ought to care about most, like the content of our character and the value of our contributions.”

On one hand, we think that the mayor is particularly courageous for coming out in a state as politically conservative as Indiana. But on the other hand, it’s upsetting that a public figure’s sexuality is still news. Here’s hoping that Buttigieg’s well-written words won’t fall on deaf ears. We commend him for using his own experience to help others.

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