Metro Weekly

Pete Buttigieg Attacks Cornyn, Cruz and Abbott over Anti-LGBTQ Stances

Transportation Secretary slams Texas Republicans for opposing gay marriage and ordering investigations of families with trans children.

Pete Buttigieg
Pete Buttigieg during a speaking event in January 2020 — Photo by Gage Skidmore.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg blasted three of Texas’s statewide elected officials over their positions on various LGBTQ issues while making remarks at a political event sponsored by the newspaper The Texas Tribune

Speaking with Tribune CEO Evan Smith in an interview at the 2022 Texas Tribune Festival last week, Buttigieg, the first out gay cabinet member to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate, called out Texas Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn for opposing a bill known as the Respect for Marriage Act.

The bill, which previously passed the U.S. House of Representatives in July, with 47 Republicans voting in favor of it, would require states to recognize same-sex and interracial marriages in states where the practice is legal, and prohibit discrimination based on the “sex, race, ethnicity or national origin of the individuals in the marriage.”

Congressional Democrats have pushed for the legislation, which they say is needed to ensure same-sex couples’ marital rights are protected in case the conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court decides to overturn its own precedent and reverse the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges ruling, which overturned state bans on same-sex marriage.

Some conservatives — most recently, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas — have argued that the court should overturn the ruling, and other decisions dealing with rights not explicitly mentioned in the constitution, and allow state legislatures to decide their own laws regarding same-sex marriage.

In July, Cruz opined during his Verdict+ with Ted Cruz podcast that the Obergefell decision was wrongly decided, saying that laws governing marriage have historically been determined by individual states. He also argued that there is currently a process in place — albeit a slow process, often taking years to accomplish — by which supporters of same-sex marriage can amend their state laws by lobbying state lawmakers to support same-sex nuptials and voting out those with whom they disagree.

Both Cruz and Cornyn have also said they intend to vote against the Respect for Marriage Act, with Cruz claiming that the bill does not contain sufficient protections for people who opposed same-sex marriage based on their religious beliefs.

“I’ve met both of your senators and your governor,” Buttigieg said, as reported by The Texas Tribune. “I don’t know their spouses. I don’t really think about their marriages. But I can’t imagine a situation where I would attempt to undo one of their marriages. So what makes them think that they are fit to pronounce upon mine?”

He added: “The question now for all of us living in America in these times is: Did we just live to see the high-water mark of rights and freedoms?”

Spokespeople for Cornyn and Cruz did not respond to Buttigieg’s remarks, but pointed to previous statements in which both senators expressed doubt that the Supreme Court would actually overturn the Obergefell decision. 

Cruz, in his podcast, said, pointing to the Supreme Court’s decision in a recent case overturning the landmark abortion case Roe v. Wade, that he believed the court may treat other cases involving unenumerated rights that do not deal with the right to life differently from abortion-related decisions.

In that opinion, Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the majority, claimed that “rights regarding contraception and same-sex relationships are inherently different from the right to abortion because the latter uniquely involves what Roe…termed ‘potential life.'”

Meanwhile, Cornyn told the right-wing Christian broadcasting network CNS News that same-sex marriage “is already law of the land,” and suggested that Democrats are manufacturing outrage over the issue in order to motivate left-leaning voters to the polls in November’s midterm elections.

“I think it’s a contrived issue because the Supreme Court decided the issue, so I don’t see any reason for the Congress to act,” he said.

The comments on same-sex marriage were one of several made by Buttigieg on a host of issues in which he claimed Republicans were using vulnerable people — pointing to a recent stunt in which Gov. Greg Abbott sent undocumented immigrants to Democratic-led cities — or failing to protect the rights of minority groups, out of sheer cruelty. He said that such stunts are “hurting people in order to get attention.”

Buttigieg also slammed Abbott for directing state child welfare agencies, including the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, to investigate the parents of youths who identify as transgender for “abuse” based on the belief that they may have allowed their children to access gender-affirming health treatments, such as puberty blockers or hormones.

Abbott based his order, which he issued in February, on a non-binding legal opinion by Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton, who claimed that gender-affirming treatments constitute child abuse. 

Buttigieg criticized Abbott and other Republicans for harping on the issue of parental rights over school curriculum at the same time the state condemns and targets parents of transgender youth for the way in which they choose to raise their children.

“Next thing you know, they’re attacking parents who when confronted with that sometimes disorienting and sometimes even frightening situation of your kid coming out to you, being in an incredibly vulnerable position trying to do the right thing for your kids, and a government official wants to come and investigate you for trying to take care of your kids?” he said.

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