U.S. 'probably had excellent presidents who were gay,' Buttigieg says

If South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg wins the 2020 election, he’ll be the first openly gay man to serve as president. But Buttigieg says he’s “almost certain” he wouldn’t be the first gay president in U.S. history.

“We’ve probably had excellent presidents who were gay — we just didn’t know which ones,” Buttigieg said in an interview with “Axios on HBO” that aired Sunday. “I mean, statistically it’s almost certain.”

A 2018 Gallup poll found that 4.5 percent of American adults identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Applying that percentage to history, it would mean that two of the 44 people who have served as president should have been gay.

Buttigieg, though, would not venture a guess as to which past presidents were gay.

“My gaydar even doesn’t work that well in the present, let alone retroactively,” he joked.

The 37-year-old mayor has made his LGBT identity part of his campaign. His husband, Chasten Glezman, appears with him at rallies and on magazine covers.

And Buttigieg speaks of his sexuality on the campaign trail.

Buttigieg speaks in Richmond, Va., on Saturday. (Photo: Dan Currier/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)
Buttigieg in Richmond, Va., on Saturday. (Photo: Dan Currier/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)

“Being gay, just like every other fact about me,” Buttigieg said in Iowa earlier this month, “... means that I have a story, and if I look to that story I can find the building blocks not only for empathy, but for the impetus to action.”

And he’s used it to attack those who consider homosexuality an issue.

In an April speech Buttigieg said that he wishes the “Mike Pences” of the world would understand that he didn’t choose his sexuality.

“If you have a problem with who I am, your problem is not with me,” Buttigieg said. “Your quarrel, sir, is with my creator.”

Much has been written about the possibility that Abraham Lincoln was gay or bisexual, a rumor given a winking acknowledgment in the name of an organization of “LGBT conservatives and allies”: the Log Cabin Republicans.

A Quinnipiac poll released in April found that 70 percent of American voters are open to electing a president who is a gay man.

Still, the same survey showed that a majority of voters (52 percent) believe the country is not ready for one.


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