The First Gay President?

Pete Buttigieg spoke to reporters after a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Notre Dame last week. Credit Joshua Lott for The New York Times

South Bend, Ind. — IF you went into some laboratory to concoct a perfect Democratic candidate, you’d be hard pressed to improve on Pete Buttigieg, the 34-year-old second-term mayor of this Rust Belt city, where he grew up and now lives just two blocks from his parents.

Education? He has a bachelor’s from Harvard and a master’s from Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar.

Public service? He’s a lieutenant in the Navy Reserve. For seven months in 2014, he was deployed to Afghanistan — and took an unpaid leave from work in order to go.

He regularly attends Sunday services at his Episcopal church. He runs half-marathons. His TEDx talk on urban innovation in South Bend is so polished and persuasive that by the end of it, you’ve hopped online to price real estate in the city.

And though elective office was in his sights from early on, he picked up some experience in the private sector, including two years as a consultant with McKinsey. He describes that job in politically pitch-perfect terms, as an effort to learn how money moves and how data is mined most effectively.

Two years ago, The Washington Post called him “the most interesting mayor you’ve never heard of.”

And that was before he came out. He told his constituents that he was gay in an op-ed that he wrote for the local newspaper last June, during his re-election campaign. Then he proceeded, in November, to win 80 percent of the vote — more than the first time around.

 But what happens if he aims higher than this primarily Democratic city of roughly 100,000 people — which he’s almost sure to? Is there now a smudge on that résumé, or could he become yet another thrilling symbol of our country’s progress?

Pete Buttigieg at a Notre Dame ribbon cutting event on Tuesday.

Credit Joshua Lott for The New York Times

The breaking of barriers was the story of last week, as Hillary Clinton clinched the Democratic presidential nomination. There are more milestones to come: for women, for blacks, for Hispanics, for other minorities.

Although voters in Wisconsin elevated an openly lesbian candidate, Tammy Baldwin, to the United States Senate, and Oregon’s governor has described herself as bisexual, no openly gay, lesbian or bisexual person has ever emerged as a plausible presidential candidate.

How soon might that change? Could we look up a dozen or more years from now and see a same-sex couple in the White House?

I’d wondered in the abstract, and after a veteran Democratic strategist pointed me toward Buttigieg as one of the party’s brightest young stars, I wondered in the concrete.

He probably winced when he read that: At no point during my visit with him last week did he express such a grand political ambition or define himself in terms of his sexual orientation.

“I’m not interested in being a poster boy,” he told me. He has not, since his op-ed, spoken frequently or expansively about being gay.

He doesn’t hide it, though. His partner, Chasten Glezman, a middle-school teacher, moved in with him this year and sometimes accompanies him to public events.

One day Buttigieg popped into Glezman’s classroom with an offering from Starbucks. That night, he got an email fuming that the children had been unnecessarily exposed to certain ideas.


Mayor Pete Buttigieg attends his budget kickoff meeting at the South Bend Police Department on Tuesday. Credit Joshua Lott for The New York Times

He wrote back “explaining how what I was doing was the same kind of thing a straight couple would do,” he told me. “I didn’t go in there to discuss L.G.B.T. issues. I went in there to bring a cup of coffee to somebody that I love.”

“But it was one of those moments,” he added, “when I realized we can’t quite go around as if it were the same.”

South Bend is Indiana’s fourth largest city and abuts the University of Notre Dame, where both of Buttigieg’s parents have taught. It was once famous for its Studebaker auto assembly plant, but that closed more than half a century ago, prompting a painful decline.

Buttigieg has worked to reverse it. His “1,000 houses in 1,000 days” campaign demolished or repaired that many abandoned homes. New construction and the dazzling River Lights public art installation, which bathes a cascading stretch of South Bend’s principal waterway in a rainbow of hues, are reinvigorating the city center. And the old Studebaker plant is at long last being renovated — into a mix of office, commercial, residential and storage space.

All of that could set Buttigieg up for a Senate or gubernatorial bid down the line. So could his sharp political antenna. He saw the future: In 2000, he won the nationwide J.F.K. Profile in Courage Essay Contest for high school students with a tribute to a certain congressman named Bernie Sanders.

“Politicians are rushing for the center, careful not to stick their necks out on issues,” he wrote, exempting Sanders and crediting him with the power “to win back the faith of a voting public weary and wary of political opportunism.”

He seems always to say just the right thing, in just the right tone. When I asked why he signed up for the Navy Reserve, he cited his experience canvassing for Barack Obama in Iowa in 2008.

“So many times, I would knock and a child would come to the door — in my eyes, a child — and we’d get to talking and this kid would be on his way to basic training,” he remembered. “It was like this whole town was emptying itself out into the military.” But very few of the people he knew from Harvard or Oxford signed up.


At a minor league baseball game on Tuesday, Mayor Buttigieg spoke with Patrik Bauer, left, a student with the South Bend Youth Task Force. Credit Joshua Lott for The New York Times

When I asked where the Democratic Party errs, he said that too many Democrats “are not yet comfortable working in a vocabulary of ‘freedom.’ Conservatives talk about freedom. They mean it. But they’re often negligent about the extent to which things other than government make people unfree.”

“And that is exactly why the things we talk about as Democrats matter,” he continued. “You’re not free if you have crushing medical debt. You’re not free if you’re being treated differently because of who you are. What has really affected my personal freedom more: the fact that I don’t have the freedom to pollute a certain river, or the fact that for part of my adult life, I didn’t have the freedom to marry somebody I was in love with? We’re talking about deep, personal freedom.”

HE also challenged the degree to which some Democrats “participate in the fiction that if we just turn back the clock and get rid of trade, everybody can get their manufacturing jobs back. There are a lot of people who think they lost their jobs because of globalization when they actually lost their jobs because of technology.”

The solution, he said, isn’t isolationism, protectionism and nostalgia. It’s new skills and a next generation of products and services.

Did I mention that he speaks passable Arabic? Or that he’s an accomplished musician who played piano with the South Bend Symphony Orchestra in 2013 for a special performance of “Rhapsody in Blue”?

Or that he recently won a J.F.K. New Frontier Award, given annually to a few Americans under 40 whose commitment to public service is changing the country?

The daunting scope of his distinctions may be his greatest liability. (How many accolades named after J.F.K. can one man collect?)

That and his precociousness. Before his mayoralty, he ran an unsuccessful campaign for state treasurer of Indiana. He was 28.

So he’s not the most relatable pol in the pack. The laboratory would fix that.

Or maybe he’s fixing it himself. I last saw him at South Bend’s minor league baseball park, where he was chowing down on an all-American supper of nachos smothered in strips of fatty beef and a pale yellow goo. It looked like training for the Iowa State Fair.

Give him some Tums. And keep an eye on him.

Mexico Gay Marriage: Supreme Court Orders All Mexican States to Recognize Weddings Performed in Mexico City,b=facebook

MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that all 31 states must recognize same-sex marriages performed in the capital, though its decision does not force those states to begin marrying gay couples in their territory.

In a 9-2 decision, the tribunal cited an article of the constitution requiring states to recognize legal contracts drawn up elsewhere.

It did not specify what degree of recognition must be granted to same-sex couples.

Mexico City’s same-sex marriage law, enacted in March, extends to wedded gay couples the right to adopt children, to jointly apply for bank loans, to inherit wealth and to be covered by their spouses’ insurance policies. Some of those may end up applying only in the capital.

The Supreme Court ruled last week that same-sex weddings are constitutional – though it is holding separate discussions this week on the adoption clause.

One of the justices, Sergio Aguirre, argued against adoptions by same-sex couples Tuesday, saying children might suffer discrimination as a result.

For Hip-Hop and Gay Rights, A Transformative Moment,0,6286807.story?page=1

AMARILLO, Texas — It’s well after midnight in a parched corner of Texas known as the buckle of the Bible Belt, down the road from the Jesus Christ is Lord Travel Center, which is just what it sounds like: an evangelical truck stop.

In the back of an empty strip mall, an up-and-coming hip-hop artist with the self-assurance and billowing locks of Samson is shooting a video. His hair is up in a tidy bun and he’s enduring a second hour of makeup transforming him into the likeness of a gender-bending woman, all of which makes more sense once you know that Adair Lion began his career by destroying it.

Hip-hop has been described as the heartbeat of urban America, but for years, it had an open secret — that heart was brimming with hate. Rap was one of the most reliably homophobic arenas in American pop culture. Its stars casually tossed off references to stabbing gays in the head or shooting them in the crotch. Rappers felt compelled to devise a catchphrase to give themselves cover while saying something nice about another man — “no homo,” as in: “That’s a cool shirt. No homo.”

It was not exactly a world where an aspiring star would break in with a song declaring that gays should be out, proud and embraced — while calling out the industry’s biggest names for failing to say the same. Earlier this year, that’s what Lion did. On “Ben,” a single from his upcoming album, he rapped: “The Bible was wrong this time. … Gay is OK — the No. 1 thing a rapper shouldn’t say. I said it anyway.”

Friends told him he was committing career suicide. He feared they were right. Then, a strange thing happened — nothing. Nothing bad, anyway.

Across the board, hip-hop is having a change of heart. Either in song or in interviews, one headliner after another — the mogulJay-Z; Jayceon Taylor, better known as Game — has thrown his support behind the gay community.

Last year, Calvin LeBrun, a noted hip-hop figure known as Mister Cee, pleaded guilty to loitering after he was caught receiving oral sex from another man in a parked car; 50 Cent, who once suggested in a Tweet that gay men should kill themselves, stood publicly by his side.

Most notably, Frank Ocean, a member of hip-hop collective Odd Future, released a letter in July declaring that his first love had been a man. Ocean’s stock soared. Among those who supported him was the rapper and producer Tyler, the Creator — who had, a year earlier, released an album that disparaged gays.

As for “Ben,” the song went viral, racking up tens of thousands of hits on YouTube. Lion’s songs have landed on taste-making radio stations and websites. His calendar of live performances is filling up — and now includes appearances at gay pride festivals in Memphis and his hometown of El Paso.

Lion, who is not gay, believes his song lives up to the finest tradition of rap.

“What hip-hop does is talk for people who don’t get to talk,” he said one recent morning in his studio. “And if you think about it that way, ‘Ben’ is the most hip-hop thing I’ve ever heard.”

Pedro E. Segarra: Opportunities Hartford: Looking Forward With Optimism

The City of Hartford, Connecticut’s Capital City, was once the global home of innovation and creativity. From firearms and the Colt Revolver, to Mark Twain and Harriett Beecher Stowe, to the first public park (Bushnell Park opened the same year as Central Park in New York City) and museum (Wadsworth Antheneum). Today, however, we are a small city that is too often forced to confront a frustrating duality.

We are proud and grateful that global companies like Aetna, The Hartford, Travelers and United Technologies Corporation continue to make Hartford their corporate home. At the same time, Hartford has the highest unemployment rate in Connecticut (hovering around 14.5 percent, but down from a high of 17 percent when I took office in June 2010) and one of the lowest median incomes in the country. Conversely, Brookings Institutionrecently named us the most productive cities in the world and Parade Magazine named us the second hardest working city in the country. Our graduation rate, while dramatically improved since we launched a comprehensive education reform effort five years ago, is still no more than 50 percent, yet Richard Florida named us the 17th most creative city in America.

With these weighty issues at the forefront of my public policy agenda, and considering that we are jam-packed into a small geographic area, there is very little room for error whenever we launch a dynamic initiative that intends to dramatically shift the way Hartford’s residents think about government and the services we provide. Said another way, they are skeptical — and, as can undoubtedly be said in every city and small town throughout the country, who can blame them?

When I took office, following a scandal that further depressed Hartford and resulted in the arrest and resignation of the former Mayor, I immediately began the process of analyzing how we could tackle some of our most dramatic problems, particularly in the areas of education, income and job development, through better coordination and collaboration. As a small city of only 18 square miles and almost 2,000 acres of historic park land, there are over 250 churches and thousands of non-profit social service providers. These institutions and service providers, while necessary and important, compete for dollars, patients or clients and publicity. Out of this concentration of services and a dwindling ability to provide financial support grew Opportunities Hartford, an ambitious initiative designed to identify the greatest short, medium and long-term opportunities that exist in education, job readiness/creation/career advancement and family sustaining income, expand and enhance those opportunities, and funnel public and private sector funds to identified and targeted areas and programs.

The program has been in existence for about a year and is being led by a work group of eight and a steering committee of 40 from various sectors across Hartford. Fundamentally, it coincides nicely with my Administration’s efforts to make our Downtown more welcoming, walkable and vibrant through the iQuilt Plan and the recently received federal Department of Transportation TIGER IV award. This almost $20 million dollar project — the Intermodal Triangle Project — will create over 275 job-years of work and generate almost $2 million dollars of new economic activity. Coupled with the work we are doing with our Congressional Delegation to have the Colt Gateway designated as a national park, which could generate an additional 1,000 jobs and infuse over $150 million dollars in sales back into the local economy, we are equally primed to change the physical landscape in Hartford in meaningful, lasting and dramatic ways.

While these important infrastructure projects move forward, we are simultaneously preparing for the final release of the Opportunities work plan, one that will include concrete immediate, medium and long-term action steps to continue increasing educational attainment, bridging the gap between self-sufficiency and the median income and increasing the supply of jobs that pay a fair wage and provide benefits. While this project is still somewhat in its infancy, it promises to completely revolutionize how non-profit and social service providers look at government as a funding source and how they assess which services to deliver and how to deliver them.

While it is odd to many to hear a Democrat talk about compression, consolidation and collaboration in ways that reduce size and increase efficiency — thus generating cost-savings — mayors do not have the luxury of accepting the status quo, we are often forced (by duty and psychological make-up) to take positions that often run opposite of both conventional wisdom and what’s generally politically popular.

Opportunities Hartford is primed to do just that, and Hartford, which undoubtedly will be all the better for it and might once again find itself an iconoclast; leading the way in innovation and creativity.

Quinn Frontrunner in Mayoral Primary

New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn is the clear frontrunner in the 2013 Democratic primary for mayor, with 29% of Democrats saying they would vote for her, a poll released Wednesday showed.

Quinn, a Manhattan Democrat who aspires to become the city’s first female and openly gay mayor, has nearly triple the number of votes as her nearest competitor in the budding race to succeed Mayor Michael Bloomberg, according to the latest survey from the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

The poll showed three of Quinn’s potential competitors are locked in a tight race for second place: Former City Comptroller Bill Thompson, with 10%; City Comptroller John Liu, 9%; and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, 9%.

In the bottom tier are Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, at 4%, and media executive Tom Allon, 1%.

Roughly one third of Democratic voters said they are undecided, a clear sign that the race remains wide open. But Quinn’s polling strength, coupled with her lead in fundraising, gives her an early advantage as the race prepares to pick up steam following the presidential election.

The Democratic mayoral nominee has lost the last five races, but party officials are hopeful they will break the losing streak next year, especially given the Republicans’ difficulty thus far identifying a potential nominee. GOP leaders, who are in the midst of interviewing possible candidates, have pledged to mount a serious, competitive challenge next year.

The primary is scheduled for Sept. 10, 2013, but some election officials are looking to move that date up to June. To win the primary, a candidate must receive 40% of the vote; otherwise, a runoff election is held two weeks later between the top two vote getters. The general election is Nov. 5, 2013, and the winner will begin a four-year term on New Year’s Day 2014.

Quinn’s frontrunner status places her in the cross hairs, and her high-profile position as the council’s leader, the second most powerful office in city government, places unique pressures on her that could be helpful to her rivals.

For example, for nearly two years now, Quinn has blocked a proposal to require city employers to provide paid sick leave for workers, and advocates connected to the liberal wing of the party recently began an intense campaign to convince Quinn that her position on this issue will complicate her hopes of winning the Democratic primary.

Quinn’s predecessors as council speaker, Peter Vallone Sr. and Gifford Miller, both attempted unsuccessfully to move from City Hall’s east wing, where the council presides, to the west wing, home of the mayor’s office.

One key unknown in the race is the political strength of Liu, who became the first Asian-American to be elected to citywide office in 2009. Liu’s political future dimmed during the past year after his campaign treasurer and a top fundraiser were arrested and indicted on charges of funneling illegal contributions to the comptroller’s 2013 campaign. Both have pleaded not guilty, and Liu, who has not been charged, has denied any wrongdoing.

Some political observers have said Liu has little chance of becoming mayor, but supporters of the comptroller have said he’s determined to run next year.

Quinnipiac’s poll examined a number of potential voter biases that could shed some light on the mayoral race. For example, 14% of city voters said they are more likely to vote for a woman, while 84% said gender wouldn’t matter. One percent of voters said they are less likely to vote for a woman.

The poll also showed that 10% of city voters are less likely to vote for a gay or lesbian candidate, while 84% said sexual orientation wouldn’t matter.

In a look at other biases, 30% of city voters said they would be less likely to vote for an atheist and 27% said they would be less likely to vote for a born-again Christian. Nearly a quarter said they would be less likely to vote for Mormon, and 19% said they would be less likely to vote for a Muslim.

Among the city’s top elected officials, Quinn maintains the highest job approval rating, with 56% rating her performance positively. Bloomberg’s job-approval rating, 51%, remained virtually unchanged during the past few months. De Blasio’s job-approval rating was 45%; Liu, 43%.

The poll also showed voters agree with Bloomberg’s position on the recent Chick-fil-A controversy. A number of elected officials nationwide, including the mayors of Boston, Chicago and San Francisco, have publicly demanded that the restaurant chain stay out of their city because of the company president’s opposition to same-sex marriage. (In New York, Quinn shared that view.)

But Bloomberg has said government should not interfere in a business’ efforts to get permits because of the owner’s personal opinions. In the poll, 83% of city voters said  elected officials should not try to discourage people from patronizing Chick-fil-A, and 82% said there should be no impact on the company’s ability to get permits.

Wanda Sykes Will Host 2 Hour-Long Election Specials on LGBT Issues for Logo

Wanda Sykes will host 2 hour-long specials for the Logo network that will focus on “hot topics for the gay and lesbian voter and where the Presidential candidates stand on those issues,” featuring a roundtable of panelists, promising to be fair and balanced, with all sides (well, probably just Republican and Democrat) represented in the conversations.

Expect the specials to tackle hot-button issues like gay marriage, healthcare and of course the economy.

These specials will be thought provoking, exciting and the perfect forum to discuss important issues facing our community… Plus, it is Logo so maybe I’ll get to dress in drag,” Sykes said in a statement.

Deadline says that the first of the two specials will be taped in front of a live studio audience, and will air four days after the Democratic Convention, on September 10th at 10pm.

And the second will air on election-eve, November 5th.

To be titled NewNowNext Vote With Wanda Sykes, the specials will be executive produced by Mark Consuelos, Albert Bianchini, Liz Stanton, and Logo’s Brent Zacky and Christopher Willey.


Gay Congressional Candidate Wins Key Primary in Wisconsin

The next openly gay member of Congress will almost certainly be Wisconsin State Rep. Mark Pocan, a progressive small business owner who won the Democratic primary tonight in the Congressional District that has been represented by Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin for the past 14 years.  (The primary winner is normally the heavy favorite to win the general election in the Democratic-leaning 2nd Congressional District.)

Pocan has been active in local and state politics since 1991, and he’s owned a small business in Madison since graduating from the University of Wisconsin in 1986.  He married his longtime partner, Philip Frank, in Toronto in 2006.  Pocan currently represents the state legislative district once represented by Baldwin, who is now running for the U.S. Senate after serving seven terms in the House.

Wisconsin Legislator Comes Out as Bisexual

Wisconsin Representative JoCasta Zamarripa told reporters this week that she’s decided to come out as bisexual — doing so before her upcoming re-election bid. A Democrat (who faces one Democratic challenger in the upcoming primary election), Zamarripa is also the only Hispanic in the Wisconsin Legislature.

$1 million attack on Tammy Baldwin fizzles?

Two separate half-million dollar attack ad campaigns targeting Rep. Tammy Baldwin in the Wisconsin Senate race may have produced zip for the special interest groups that launched them.  New polling numbers suggest the presumptive Democratic nominee’s standing in the race has actually improved over the last few weeks.  Baldwin is now tied with two GOP challengers and leads two others, according to the firm Public Policy Polling.

A First: GOP Congresswoman Supports Marriage Equality

Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen has verified her support for marriage equality to the Washington Blade, making her the first GOP member of the House to do so.

Ros-Lehtinen also became the first Republican to sign on as a co-sponsor for a bill repealing the Defense of Marriage Act — called the Respect for Marriage Act — back in September.