Metro Weekly

GOP Congresswoman Slammed for Homophobic Dig at Pete Buttigieg

Congresswoman Anna Paulina Luna whines that Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg "got maternity leave and I didn't."

Pete Buttigieg (Official Portrait) Anna Paulina Luna (Official Portrait)

A Republican congresswoman revived a long-standing right-wing trope about Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg that mocks him for taking parental leave in 2021 following the birth of his twin children, who had to be hospitalized after developing a serious infection.

U.S. Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fla.), a member of the House Freedom Caucus and an opponent of LGBTQ rights, took a swipe at Buttigieg to advance a bill she’s pushing that would allow female members of Congress to vote by proxy in the six weeks after giving birth to biological children.

“Pete Buttigieg got maternity leave and I didn’t,” whined Luna in a post on X. “And he’s a dude. It’s time Congress gets with the times.”

All federal workers, including employees of Congress, are eligible for up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. That’s the benefit Buttigieg took advantage of when his children developed medical complications.

But the decision to do so, in 2021, just months after being confirmed as Secretary of Transportation, has drawn jeers and derision from conservatives, many of whom believe that fathers shouldn’t qualify for parental leave since they do not directly give birth — or, apparently, have any significant role in child-rearing, except when it’s politically convenient to champion “parental rights.”

Luna, 34, who gave birth to a son in August, had initially planned to return to Congress soon after giving birth. In fact, she currently has no childcare and brings her 4-month-old son with her to the Capitol almost every day, according to The New York Times.

But she suffered from pre-eclampsia and had to have labor induced, experiencing a difficult delivery and developing an infection, mastitis, that led her doctor to prohibit her from traveling from her home in Florida back to Washington.

While she was being treated for her condition, Luna was forced to miss several key votes, including one on a stopgap spending plan to avoid a government shutdown, which she opposed, and the vote to oust Kevin McCarthy from his position as Speaker of the House. 

Luna subsequently drafted a bill to grant six weeks of maternity leave to new mothers in Congress and make an exception to rules adopted by the Republican House earlier this year banning proxy voting, which conservatives argue was abused by Democrats when they controlled the House, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under the bill, those mothers who have physically given birth would be allowed to vote by proxy. 

The bill — which has already received bipartisan support from 23 other members of Congress — would only grant that “maternity leave” benefit to women who have physically given birth. It would not apply to any parent, regardless of orientation, who adopts or has a child via surrogacy, including same-sex couples.

When asked by the Times about why postpartum mothers should get a reprieve but not other congressional members dealing with other conditions, or men helping with child care after a mother has given birth, Luna declined to give a straight answer, saying she wasn’t tackling the larger issue of whether proxy voting should be available to other groups. 

Nonetheless, Luna’s dig at Buttigieg — ostensibly to gain favor for her bill — revives a right-wing trope that questions Buttigieg’s masculinity, since real men apparently don’t ask for parental leave or take care of children. It also plays on outdated stereotypes of gay men as effeminate or wishing to emulate women in their behavior, and panders to right-wing beliefs opposing any idea of nonconformity with traditional sex stereotypes.

In response to Luna’s homophobic dog whistle, Chasten Buttigieg, the husband of the Transportation Secretary, responded to her post.

“Every parent deserves parental leave,” he wrote. “Those first weeks are so crucial for parents and newborns. What a shame to see Representative Luna tarnish this bipartisan effort with unnecessary homophobia. ‘Getting with the times’ would serve you well, Congresswoman.”

Speaking to The Advocate about his response to Luna’s post, Chasten Buttigieg said he supports the idea of parental leave for all parents, regardless of orientation.

“I’m a big proponent of parental leave,” he told the publication. “It’s an extremely important time for parents and their newborn, or, as was in our case, newborns. I am glad to see members of both parties come together and agree that equitable parental leave is deserved by all.”

But he also felt compelled to respond to Luna’s remark because it was not only homophobic but a direct attack against his family.

“The best thing I can do for [my children] is to continue to show up for them and be the best dad that I can be,” he said. “I know one day they will judge us for what we did to make the world a better place, so I’ll focus on that work and try my best to stay out of the petty fights some online or in Congress are so eager to pick. That doesn’t mean I’ll be silent when someone goes after my family, though. I’ll always stick up for my kids.”

While Luna may have thought she “dunked on” Pete Buttigieg in her post, other social media users slammed her for attempting to score political points on the backs of the Transportation Secretary’s family.

“Lady he didn’t get maternity leave he got FMLA 12 weeks every federal employee gets that,” tweeted one user. “You should know that as a federal employee. Maybe you should familiarize yourself with the federal employee paid leave act?”

“When my daughter and son were born. I too got paternity leave. 10 days non chargeable leave to take care of mom and baby. I was also on active duty while serving in the army,” wrote another user and self-described military veteran. “So what is your point?”

The unintended irony of your statement is fantastic,” wrote a third. “You make an antiquated comment about gender; then implore Congress to ‘get with the times.'”

“It’s called parental leave. Ideally it applies to men and women, and to parents who adopt as well as those fortunate enough to have biological children,” wrote one woman who appeared not to be swayed by Luna’s implied plea for pity or sympathy. 

That same user also responded online to a troll, explaining the reason why parental leave shouldn’t just apply to biological mothers giving birth.

“Parental leave isn’t so women can ‘recover’ from giving birth. Unless you have a c-section, there isn’t that much recovering to do,” she wrote. “It’s so new parents can bond with their child, & limit the germs an under 6-week old is exposed to. It’s also for when parents have a sick child. You need to come out of your cave more often.”

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