Metro Weekly

Buttigieg responds to Pence: My problem is when your “religious beliefs are used as an excuse to harm other people”

South Bend mayor says his quarrel is with how the vice president uses his beliefs to justify anti-gay discrimination

Pete Buttigieg – Photo: City of South Bend.

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg pushed back against attempts by Vice President Pence to portray himself as a victim on LGBTQ and religious issues.

Buttigieg argued that Pence uses religion as an excuse to harm people, reports The Hill.

“The vice president is entitled to his religious beliefs,” Buttigieg, the openly gay mayor of South Bend, Ind., said during an appearance on CNN’s New Day. “My problem is when those religious beliefs are used as an excuse to harm other people.”

Buttigieg said that Pence has a history of picking fights with the LGBTQ community, citing the 2015 fight over Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act that Pence signed into law, which allowed businesses to use religious liberty as a defense if they believed government was burdening their exercise of religion.

Critics of the law argued that it would allow businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ people under the guise of religion, pointing to a situation in which Memories Pizza, a Walkerton, Ind.-based pizza shop said it would refuse to cater same-sex weddings, citing Indiana’s RFRA law as a defense.

“I just believe that’s wrong,” Buttigieg said of the law’s provisions allowing businesses to discriminate. “This isn’t about [Pence] as a human being. This is about policies that hurt people, policies that hurt children.”

What’s more, Buttigieg added, Pence has never acknowledged or said that it shouldn’t be legal in the United States to discriminate against LGBTQ people, adding: “I would love to see him evolve on that issue.”

As a native Hoosier, Buttigieg has received a significant amount of press due to the fact that his background and political beliefs provide a stark contrast with not only President Donald Trump, but Pence as well. As Buttigieg’s standing in the polls has risen and he has begun raising more money, he has seemed more willing to speak out against Pence, with whom he enjoyed a cordial relationship when he was serving as mayor and Pence was serving as governor.

Pence and his wife, Karen, have argued that Buttigieg is unfairly attacking their religious beliefs that homosexuality is a sin.

“I’ve known Mayor Pete for many years. We worked very closely when I was governor,” Pence told CNN’s Dana Bash in a recent interview. “And I considered him a friend. He knows I don’t have a problem with him. … I think Pete’s quarrel is with the First Amendment. We all have a right to our religious beliefs.”

Pence also claimed that Buttigieg’s criticism may be partially fueled by attempts to distinguish himself from the 18 other Democrats currently running for president.

“I don’t believe in discrimination against anybody,” Pence told Bash. “I treat everybody the I want to be treated.”

Watch Buttigieg’s exchange with the hosts of CNN’s New Day below:

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at

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