White House hopeful Pete Buttigieg has campaign events disrupted by anti-gay heckles

Ben Riley-Smith
Pete Buttigieg, 37, would be the first openly gay US president if he wins the race to the White House - AP

Pete Buttigieg, the 37-year-old presidential hopeful who has surged in the polls, had two campaign events in Iowa disrupted by homophobic heckles on Tuesday.

One event saw a middle-aged white man repeatedly shout “Sodom and Gomorrah”, a reference to the biblical cities. Another saw a protester call out: "You betray your baptism.” 

Mr Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is one of America’s first openly gay presidential candidates and is seeking the Democratic Party nomination for the 2020 election. 

After formally announcing his candidacy this week, Mr Buttigieg headed to Iowa, the first state to vote in the Democratic primary. 

But two incidents of apparently anti-gay heckling marred his trip.

In one, a man stood and shouted “remember Sodom and Gomorrah” before being drowned out by the crowd. 

Pete Buttigieg is the mayor of South Bend, Indiana Credit: REUTERS/Mary Schwalm

After waiting for the disruption to die down, Mr Buttigieg responded: “You know the good news is the condition of my soul is in the hands of God, but the Iowa caucuses are up to you.”

At another event, a protester shouted “you betray your baptism”. The comment reportedly came after the candidate had discussed the importance of marriage equality. 

Mr Buttigieg responded by joking “coffee after church gets a little ratty sometimes”. He added: “That gentleman believes what he is doing is in line with the will of the creator. I view it differently. We ought to be able to view it differently and never question one another’s right to be an American.”

The heckles come after a high profile back-and-forth between Mr Buttigieg and Mike Pence, the US vice president, about Christianity and homosexuality. 

Discussing the “Sodom and Gomorrah” incident later, Mr Buttigieg said such heckles were “irritating” but also “part of the landscape” for front-line politicians. 

“When you’re in politics, especially at this level, you’re going to see the good, the bad, the ugly and the peculiar. And that’s just part of how it works and you’ve got to be prepared for that,” Mr Buttigieg said. 

“Look, the next president is going to have to confront things a lot more challenging than being interrupted or having to talk over a little noise at an event.”