Metro Weekly

Pete Buttigieg reacts to historic cabinet role: “You can really feel the history swirling around us”

Buttigieg: “There have been times in living memory where you couldn’t have any job in the federal government if you were gay."

Pete Buttigieg, Chasten Buttigieg, Kamala Harris
Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, Chasten Buttigieg, and Vice President Kamala Harris — Photo: Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg has reacted to his historic confirmation last month, which saw him become the first openly gay, Senate-confirmed member of a presidential cabinet.

Buttigieg also discussed his plans for the Department of Transportation, why he still feels “imposter syndrome” despite his success, and how he reconciles being gay and Christian.

Speaking to NBC News’ Savannah Sellers, Buttigieg noted he could “feel the history swirling around us when [Vice President Kamala Harris] was swearing me in with my husband, Chasten, at my side.”

Buttigieg, a former Naval reservist who served under the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, also commented on the progress made that allows an openly gay man to serve in a presidential cabinet.

“There have been times in living memory where you couldn’t have any job in the federal government if you were gay,” Buttigieg said. “Thousands of people lost their jobs, lost their livelihoods because of that kind of discrimination, so it’s a really encouraging sign about the change that can happen but also a reminder that we’ve got a long way to go.”

Buttigieg also shook off potential criticism of his sexuality, his age — Buttigieg, 39, is the youngest member of President Joe Biden’s cabinet — or his credentials for the role as transportation secretary.

“The great thing about public service is that you have an opportunity to deliver,” he said. “If you do a good job, nobody cares how old you are, nobody cares if you’re gay, nobody cares about anything in your life so much as you’re making their lives better.”

Discussing religion, Buttigieg touched on how he reconciles his faith with his sexuality, saying he wants a “more inclusive vision of what faith can be.”

“As a married gay man and as a believer, I think about this a lot, and sometimes I do feel like we have to sort of defend the LGBTQ community within the church,” Buttigieg said. “Then again, there are a lot of times when I feel like I’m defending the church in the LGBTQ community or the progressives — especially because there are so many people in our community whose experience with faith or with religion is one of exclusion and one of hurt.”

Buttigieg frequently spoke about his faith during his historic campaign for president, which saw him become the first openly gay person to win a presidential primary state.

In 2019, he said his marriage to husband Chasten had moved him “closer to God,” and in one notable retort, after twice-impeached former president Donald Trump accused him of “pretending” to be a Christian, Buttigieg clapped back: “I’m pretty sure I’ve been a believer longer than he’s been a Republican.”

Asked by Sellers about “imposter syndrome,” Buttigieg said it would be “crazy” to not have felt it during the campaign.

“When you find yourself standing next to the people that ran for President, of course you’d wonder if you’re measuring up,” the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., said.

Buttigieg ended his campaign prior to Super Tuesday and instead threw his support behind Biden, becoming a prominent surrogate for Biden’s campaign.

Watch the full interview below:

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