Mayor Of South Bend, Indiana, Comes Out As Gay In A Newspaper Op-Ed, And It's Pretty Fantastic

Indiana has seen some intense scrutiny this year for its Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which critics argued allowed Indiana businesses to reject LGBT customers on the grounds of "religious freedom." So it took some serious guts for Peter Buttigieg, who was recently elected mayor of South Bend, Indiana — home to Notre Dame — to make a really personal disclosure in a very public place. In a newspaper op-ed, the South Bend, Indiana, mayor came out as gay on Tuesday.

In the piece in the South Bend Tribune, titled "Why coming out matters," Buttigieg wrote that while he considers his sexual orientation none of "anyone else's business," he felt compelled to be more open about who he is. On Buttigieg's official Facebook page, supporters posted messages praising him for his decision to go public, even though as he wrote in the op-ed, "Putting something this personal on the pages of a newspaper does not come easy."

I was well into adulthood before I was prepared to acknowledge the simple fact that I am gay. It took years of struggle and growth for me to recognize that it’s just a fact of life, like having brown hair, and part of who I am.

Gov. Mike Pence signed the religious freedom bill into law earlier this year, and the backlash began almost immediately, with many threatening boycotts of Indiana businesses and widespread protests. Pence signed a "revised" version of the law in April, which states that the law cannot be used to discriminate against someone on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. But a lot of damage was done to Indiana’s image of LGBT-friendliness.

Buttigieg wrote that despite growing acceptance and legalization of gay marriage, many states, including his own, allow employers to fire employees based on their sexual orientation (He notes that the practice isn't legal in South Bend, however). Buttigieg also said Indiana needs to step up and show that it's not just about the "disastrous" RFRA, but is a state that values respect and decency.

According to the city's website, Buttigieg, a native of South Bend, was a Rhodes scholar who studied philosophy, politics, and economics at Oxford University. The 33-year-old also has a degree in history and literature from Harvard. In other words, he's no dummy. He wrote in the op-ed that he hoped his coming out would do some good for others, whether it's a student struggling with her sexuality, or a conservative who might think he doesn't know any gay people.

Perhaps a familiar face can be a reminder that we're all in this together as a community.

Images: City of South Bend (1)