Things are getting really interesting in Indiana.
A recent (Republican) poll confirms that Mike Pence continues to lose support, largely because of RFRA (although his vendetta against public schools generally and Glenda Ritz specifically have certainly played a part). The poll also found that a majority of Hoosiers support amending the state’s civil rights law to protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation–an amendment our fundamentalist Governor adamantly opposes.
Then, to make things even more interesting, a couple of days ago South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigeig announced that he is gay.
Buttigeig is a businessman, Afghanistan veteran, runner, musician and at 33, America’s youngest mayor of a city with over 100,000 residents. He’s also a Rhodes scholar who studied at Oxford University, a valedictorian who was class president at his South Bend high school, a Harvard University graduate, and a lieutenant in U.S. Navy Reserve.
To top it off, Buttigeig is a nice guy who has by all accounts also done an excellent job as Mayor. (I think he’s what they call an overachiever.)
It will be interesting to see the reaction to Buttigeig’s eloquent announcement. Indiana is (accurately) seen as socially conservative but, as the recent polling attests, homophobia in the state is waning, and for some time now, Hoosiers in more urban areas of the state have proved to be far more accepting of diversity than our reputation would suggest. (Indianapolis’ Pride Festival drew over 100,000 attendees last week.) Even in much smaller South Bend– home to Catholic Notre Dame– the reaction to the Mayor’s revelation has thus far been largely positive.
Buttigieg has been widely viewed as a political “comer,” a star with a bright electoral future. I predict that he will win re-election in November by a comfortable margin, despite this announcement. The more intriguing question is: will coming out affect his prospects for higher office down the road?
I know the timing is all wrong, but replacing Mike Pence with a gay Democrat would repair the damage to Indiana’s reputation in one fell swoop…