Buttigieg takes shot at social conservatives, describes coming out during Vegas LGBTQ gala

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg took a shot at social conservatives Saturday in Las Vegas as he described the exclusion he experienced after publically coming out as a gay man.

The South Bend, Ind., mayor also spoke of the need to overcome divisions during a swing stop at a gala for an LGBTQ civil rights group. He said that LGBTQ people, women, immigrants, people of color and with disabilities and workers are experiencing a “crisis of belonging in this country.”

"What every gay person has in common with every excluded person of any kind is knowing what it's like to see a wall between you and the rest of the world and wonder what it's like on the other side," Buttigieg said during his keynote address for the Human Rights Campaign at Caesar’s Palace.

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Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg speaks during the Human Rights Campaign's 14th Annual Las Vegas Gala at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Saturday, May 11, 2019. (Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun via AP)

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg speaks during the Human Rights Campaign's 14th Annual Las Vegas Gala at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Saturday, May 11, 2019. (Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun via AP)

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Buttigieg, 37, a former Navy intelligence officer, described coming out while mayor and preparing to deploy to Afghanistan.

"I was seized with the awareness that I could be killed in action at the age of 33, a grown man and an elected official, with no idea what it was like to be in love," he said. "I knew that I had to be who I am."

Buttigieg also took aim at the rhetoric of social conservatives.

"We have allowed conservatives to monopolize the language of freedom," he said. "But we know that freedom isn't just about freedom from, it's about freedom to. Not just freedom from regulation, but freedom to live a life of your choosing."

"We have allowed conservatives to monopolize the language of freedom. But we know that freedom isn't just about freedom from, it's about freedom to. Not just freedom from regulation, but freedom to live a life of your choosing."

— Pete Buttigieg, Democratic candidate for president

The audience of about 750 gave him two standing ovations. One occurred when his husband, Chasten, joined him onstage at the end of his speech.

Saturday’s appearance marked Buttigieg’s second campaign stop in Nevada this year. The mayor has surged in popularity despite having held only one public office of a city with a population of 100,000 people.

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President Trump recently took aim at his young political rival during a Wednesday rally in Panama Beach, Fla. First, he called him “Boot edge edge” and then compared him to Alfred E. Neuman, the cartoon mascot and cover boy of Mad magazine.

Buttigieg also mentioned an op-ed he wrote where he came out as a gay man while Vice President Mike Pence was governor of Indiana. Pence, a devout Christian, has said homosexuality is a choice and has publically stated marriage is between a man and woman.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.