LGBTI community split over Buttigieg's historic candidacy

Washington, Feb 22: The candidacy of Pete Buttigieg, the first openly gay contender to launch a major presidential campaign in the US, has sparked enthusiasm from a sector of the LGTBI community who see his surprisingly strong performance in the first two nominating contests as a sign that the country was becoming less homophobic.

But the more progressive segment of that voting bloc is decidedly indifferent toward him, viewing the former Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, as too conservative and a member of the Democratic Party's establishment wing, Efe news said in a report on Friday.

Buttigieg came out on top in the Iowa caucuses and finished second behind Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in the New Hampshire primary. Both contests were held this month.

"I go back to the days of Harvey Milk. I worked on his supervisorial campaign when electing an openly gay person was such a struggle," Gwenn Craig, an African-American veteran LGTBI community activist in the San Francisco Bay area, told Efe news.

Milk was the first openly gay elected official in the history of California.

"What's really striking to me is that so few people bring it up at all... Right now it's not a question. It's not a commentary that people have been making about his campaign," she said.

Craig, however, is backing one of Buttigieg's rivals, Elizabeth Warren, saying that the Massachusetts Senator's progressive ideals more closely coincide with her own.

A prominent HIV/AIDS activist in San Francisco, Dana Van Gorder, said the fact there has been a mixed response to Buttigieg within the LGBTI community was a sign of the progress made in the area of gay rights.

Journalist and activist Ann Northrop, an organizer of an event - the Queer Liberation March - that is a radical alternative to New York City's main Pride parade, told Efe news that she has mixed feelings about Buttigieg.

"It's amazing and astonishing to have an out gay, married man emerge as a serious candidate for president of the US. And it's even more amazing that he's getting such huge support, even though he's a young (38-year-old former) mayor of a small city in the Midwest," Northrop said.

But she said that although a portion of the LGTBI community was enthusiastic about Buttigieg and has donated a significant amount of money to his campaign, others see him as too "establishment" and conservative.

"Many of us are voting for other candidates in the process of choosing the nominee for the Democratic Party to go against Donald Trump in November. Some think Buttigieg is so white and moderate that his candidacy and success is nothing to celebrate," Northrop added.

Stacy Lentz, an activist and co-founder of the iconic Stonewall Inn in New York City, considered the cradle of the modern struggle for LGBTI rights in the US, said Buttigieg's candidacy is "historic and incredible".

But she refrained from making any further comment, saying the "political climate is too divisive right now and any comment could be taken out of context".

Several Democratic voters in New York City told Efe news that they were excited that a gay candidate is in the race but rejected his politics and his insistence on touting his military background.

The next test for Buttigieg's candidacy will come on Saturday at the Nevada caucuses.

Two polls show him among the top three in voter preference but well behind Sanders.