Metro Weekly

Pete Buttigieg confirmed as U.S. Secretary of Transportation

Openly gay former mayor makes history as youngest secretary to lead the U.S. Department of Transportation

pete buttigieg
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg – Photo: Gage Skidmore.

On Tuesday, Pete Buttigieg became the first openly gay cabinet member to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate when he was approved as the nation’s 19th U.S. Secretary of Transportation.

Buttigieg earned praise from senators of both parties for the answers he gave in response to senators’ inquiries at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

The committee eventually approved his nomination by a bipartisan vote of 21-3, setting up a vote by the full chamber, which confirmed him by a vote of 86-13. All those voting against his nomination were Republicans.

Buttigieg’s confirmation not only makes him the first out LGBTQ person to serve in a Senate-approved cabinet position, but the youngest secretary to ever head the department.

Buttigieg, a former presidential candidate and two-term mayor of South Bend, Ind., burst onto the scene two years ago when he launched his campaign, gaining attention and earning praise for his performances in the early debates and his win in the Iowa caucus.

After failing to garner the Democratic Party’s nomination, Buttigieg became a key surrogate for the Biden-Harris presidential campaign and had his name bandied about as a possible cabinet member.

LGBTQ Victory Institute, which advocates for LGBTQ representation in government through its Presidential Appointments Initiative, has been high on Buttigieg since its sister organization, LGBTQ Victory Fund, endorsed his presidential bid.

The Institute praised the historical significance of Buttigieg’s nomination and his qualifications for the job to which he was appointed by President Biden.

“Pete shattered a centuries-old political barrier with overwhelming bipartisan support and that
paves the way for more LGBTQ Americans to pursue high-profile appointments,” Annise Parker, the president and CEO of LGBTQ Victory Institute said in a statement. “Pete testifying at his confirmation hearing, with his husband looking on, will be among the powerful images that define this unprecedented political moment and will be remembered as a milestone in America’s move toward social justice.

“While his confirmation is historic, Pete is focused on the difficult task ahead. America is in desperate need of a revitalized transportation effort and his two terms as mayor provide the experience and perspective needed to propose bold solutions,” Parker added. “America is fortunate to have Pete as their Secretary of Transportation.”

Ruben Gonzales, the executive director of LGBTQ Victory Institute, said that Buttigieg’s successful nomination was evidence of the country’s “willingness to judge a leader by their qualifications,” rather than their sexual orientation. 

See also: President Biden’s Secretary of State nominee vows to allow embassies to fly Pride flags once again

“Each new political barrier broken inspires more LGBTQ people to consider careers in public service, a virtuous cycle we will accelerate until equitable representation is achieved,” Gonzales said. “The Biden-Harris administration presents opportunities to place diverse LGBTQ people in every agency and at every level of government. We are thrilled to be a partner in making that happen.”

In addition to advocating for an out LGBTQ cabinet member, the Institute has also called on President Biden to nominate an out LGBTQ person for Supreme Court Justice, appoint LGBTQ women and people of color to ambassadorships, and ensure that LGBTQ people are equitably represented among government appointees.

Erin Uritus, the CEO of Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, praised Buttigieg’s confirmation as “big news” and “groundbreaking.”

“Today it is even easier for LGBTQ Americans to see ourselves in national leadership. And we look forward to witnessing the power of someone from our own community bringing their full, authentic self into this role,” Uritus said in a statement. “Every workplace deserves out leadership — our federal government is no exception. The Biden-Harris administration deserves praise for continuing to demonstrate that diversity, visibility, and representation matter.”

Secretary-designate Pete Buttigieg during his confirmation hearing. – Photo: U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transporation.

The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s top LGBTQ advocacy organization, congratulated Buttigieg on his historic achievement.

“This confirmation breaks through a barrier that has existed for too long; where
LGBTQ identity served as an impediment to nomination or confirmation at the highest level of
government,” HRC President Alphonso David said in a statement. “Let this important moment for our movement serve as a reminder to every LGBTQ young person: you too can serve your country in any capacity you earn the qualifications to hold.

“President Biden promised to deliver an administration representative of the diversity of this nation, and this confirmation is a significant achievement toward that goal,” added David. “I look forward to working with Secretary Pete Buttigieg and the entire Biden cabinet.”

The Indiana Democratic Party released a statement cheering on their native son and praising his qualifications.

“It’s no secret Pete Buttigieg loves infrastructure and the ins and outs that come with it. On top of modernizing South Bend’s infrastructure system during his tenure as mayor, the significance of something as simple as an airport has on the Buttigieg family reminds all Hoosiers that our lives depend and rely on our nation having the best infrastructure system possible so that we can live, thrive, and even love while being in transit,” John Zody, the chairman of the Indiana Democratic Party said, referring to Buttigieg’s decision to propose to his now-husband, Chasten, in an airport.

“The Indiana Democratic party is proud of Secretary Buttigieg for all the work he’s accomplished for Hoosiers and the achievements he’ll make while leading the Department of Transportation under the Biden-Harris Administration,” Zody added. “Buttigieg is a true example of what it means to have all voices — including LGBTQ Americans — at the table, and he’ll be an inspiration for so many who until this moment may have believed certain dreams were not possible.”

Read more:

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

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