With his confirmation as the Biden administration’s new Secretary of Transportation by the full Senate in a 86-13 vote, Pete Buttigieg becomes the first Senate-confirmed member of a presidential cabinet in United States history. But blazing LGBTQ+ trails and being first is nothing new for the former U.S. Navy intelligence officer who served under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" era. From city hall in South Bend, Indiana, to our nation's capital, the Harvard College and Oxford University graduate has been leading the way for his county and community.
Here are some of the most notable firsts from Secretary Buttigieg so far.
Buttigieg came out in a 2015 essay published in the South Bend Tribune while he was mayor of South Bend, Indiana. In doing so, he became the first out mayor, first out executive and the highest elected out official in the state.
Even before coming out though, Buttigieg pushed for LGBTQ+ equality, showing his support for adding sexual orientation and gender identity to his city’s civil rights ordinance shortly after taking office in 2012. He also spoke out against Mike Pence's Religious Freedom Restoration Act which effectively enabled discrimination against LGBTQ+ people under the guise of protecting religious freedoms.
Buttigieg was not the first out gay presidential canddiate for a major political party, that was Fred Karger who ran for the Republican nomination in 2012. Buttigieg's campaign launch in 2019 came after that.
"My name is Pete Buttigieg, they call me Mayor Pete," he said in his rainy-day announcement."I am a proud son of South Bend, Indiana, and I am running for President of the United States." Buttigieg went on to make history when he became the first out candidate to participate in a presidential debate. There he made policy arguments, discussing extending access to college to more people, and taking issue with the then-popular Medicare for all. He also criticized Republicans.
"The Republican Party likes to cloak itself in the language of religion,” he said. “We should call out hypocrisy when we see it. For a party that associates itself with Christianity to say that it is OK to suggest that God would smile on the division of families at the hands of federal agents — that God would condone putting children in cages — has lost all claim to ever use religious language again.” Toward the end of the debate he nodded to the historic nature of his presence.
“I have the experience of being in a marriage that is possible by a single vote on the Supreme Court," he said. It was not an experience shared by anyone else onstage.
Not only was Buttigieg the first out candidate at a debate, he was also the first candidate to discuss being LGBTQ+ during a debate. For that moment he talked about his coming out while running for re-election to the post of mayor. He told the audience that he wondered whether comngout would be “the ultimate career-ending professional setback.”
“What happened was that, when I trusted voters to judge me based on the job that I did for them, they decided to trust me,” he said. “And what I learned was that trust can be reciprocated and that part of how you can win and deserve to win is to know what's worth more to you than winning.”
He later went on to kiss Chasten, his husband, onstage at a 2019 presidential rally in a much-discussed moment.
Just as important as running in a race is winning. Buttigieg not only made history as the first out LGBTQ+ person to run in the Iowa Democratic caucuses (Karger ran in the Iowa Republican caucuses,) but he became the first out candidate to land a primary victory within a major political party when he beat out the other candidates. That win means he was also the first out candidates to win delegates from a major political party.
At the time, he said his victory “validates for a kid somewhere in a community wondering if he belongs or she belongs or they belong in their own family.” It was a phrase he returned to later when he officially ended his campaign for president.
While he may have bowed out of the presidential race, that doesn't mean Buttigieg has stopped working hard for the country. He was a firecracker on the campaign trail for Biden, posing as the surrogate to Fox News and going viral interview after interview. Then, once Biden was voted into office, Buttigieg served on the transition team.
Then, earlier this year the Biden administration chose Buttigieg to be the first out politician to be nominated for confirmation by the Senate for a Cabinet role— Republican Richard Grenell was appointed to Acting Director of Intelligence during the Trump administration, a temporary Cabinet-level position he was never confirmed for. In his nomination speech, Buttigieg reflected on the historic nature of the moment telling those assembled of how homophobia stalled the nomination of James Hormel to be ambassador to Luxembourg.
Buttigieg went on to become the first out Cabinet nominee to be sworn in for the hearings, his husband Chasten present in the room. There, Chasten was even mentioned and thanked in the introduction.
Last week, the committee overseeing Buttigieg's nomination approved him in a 21 - 3 vote. There, he was referred to as an exemplarily nominee that other should look to as a model.
"You have put on a clinic on how a nominee should work and act. You haven't avoided the questions," Senator Jon Tester told Buttigieg during the proceedings. "You've been straightforward. And you know what the hell you're talking about. And that's pretty damn refreshing."
And with today's news from the nation's capital, Pete Buttigieg become's the first out member of a presidential cabinet to be confirmed by the full Senate. Republican Senators Tom Cotton, Roger Marshall, Bill Cassidy, Rick Scott, James Langford, Marco Rubio, Richard Shelby, Tommy Tuberville, Marsha Blackburn, Tim Scott, Josh Hawley, Bill Hagerty, and Ted Cruz opposed the nomination in the full Senate vote. Buttigieg is expected to be sworn in by Vice President Kamala Harris later today.
Congratulations, Secretary Buttigieg!