Trumps Gay Allies Join Fight Against Opportunist Pete Buttigieg

As South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigiegs profile, poll numbers, and fundraising prowess have risen in recent months, conservatives have generally left attacks against the young Democratic presidential candidate to creepy monologues by late-night political commentators.

But now, the gay Midwestern mayors rise to prominence has Republicans worried enough to enlist the Trump administrations gay allies to provide cover for its anti-LGBT policiesand to rewrite Vice President Mike Pences long history as the gay communitys Public Enemy No. 1.

In a Fox News op-ed, Gregory T. Angelo, a former director of the gay Republican group Log Cabin Republicans, argued that many of the harshest critiques against Penceamong them, that he has supported so-called conversion therapy in the pastare inaccurate. In an appearance on the network, Ambassador Ric Grennell compared Buttigiegs characterizations of Pences record to a hate hoax along the lines of Jussie Smollett.

I think this is a total hate hoax and I think it's outrageous, Grennell said on Thursday. The gay community used to be the community pushing tolerance and diversity. We were the ones that were saying everyone should be able to love and accept each other. Now suddenly theres a whole community of people demanding that we all think alike.

For six years, Angelo served as the president and executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, which seeks to advance LGBT causes and candidates within the Republican Party. But since leaving the organization six months ago, Angelos advocacy has shifted from encouraging support for LGBT issues amongst Republicans to running defense for an administration with a hostile record on gay and trans rights.

In a conversation with The Daily Beast, Angelo said that Pence has been elevated to demonic status by left-wing LGBT advocates, based on characterizations of his record that Angelo called patently and categorically false.

I looked around and saw that no one else was being especially vocal in defense of the vice president, and certainly debunking a lot of the myths and disinformation that have been put out against him, and I decided to take a stand, Angelo told The Daily Beast, adding that attempts to depict Pence as anything but a vice president whos acting in the best interests of all Americans are absolutely false.

The vice president is not driven by any element of anti-gay animus, Angelo said.

While President Donald Trump has no evident personal animus towards a certain kind of wealthy, white gay manduring the 2016 campaign, he pledge to do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from Islamic terrorismhis administration has been far more aggressive in rolling back protections for queer people, particularly transgender Americans.

But the main target in Buttigiegs critiques has been Pence, whose rsum is as studded with anti-LGBT policies as Buttigiegs is with academic plaudits.

From opposing gays in the military to warning that same-sex marriage would lead to societal collapse, Pences stance on LGBT issues is so aggressive that Trump reportedly once joked in a conversation about gay rights that Pence wants to hang them all! Pences signing of a so-called religious freedom bill when he was governor of Indiana, which critics said would allow for businesses to discriminate against LGBT people, has been a particular point of contention between the two Hoosiers.

That whole episode propelled him to his current position in the Republican Party, Buttigieg told The Daily Beast last month. At best, it kind of enables these things, because it gives some sort of tacit blessing from the highest office in the land. There are really consequences to this.

The vice presidents response to Buttigiegs critiques have been relatively muted: In an interview on CNBC earlier this month, Pence said that Buttigieg knows better than to think his political and religious positions on LGBT rights amount to a personal animosity.

But the Trump administrations gay defenders are much less restrained in their attacks on Buttigieg. Angelo implied that Buttigieg only came out of the closet in the midst of a reelection campaign for political reasons.

When it benefited his political career, Pete Buttigieg remained in the closet. When it benefited his political career, Pete Buttigieg came out as gay, Angelo said. When it benefited his political career, Buttigieg was more than happy to stand shoulder to shoulder with Mike Pence as allies, and when it benefited his political career, Pete Buttigieg was more than happy to throw his longtime friendship with Mike Pence under the bus and criticize him.

I cant fault him for using a strategy that works, but it does seem like a mix of opportunism and cynicism rolled into one, Angelo said.

Asked about Angelos comments, the Buttigieg campaign referred The Daily Beast to comments the mayor made about his coming-out journey on MSNBC, in which he said that his seven-month deployment to Afghanistan put him over the top.

I realize that you only get to be one person, Buttigieg said. You dont know how long you have on this earth, and by the time I came back, I realized, Ive got to do something.

Some gay conservatives told The Daily Beast that feel that Trump allies like Angelo and Grennell are pandering to the administration, using their status as gay men to give Pence cover in hopes of ingratiating themselves for political or career advancement.

Log Cabin Republicans didnt endorse Trump when [Angelo] was head of that organization, and now hes trying to be relevant after a completely ineffective attempt at leading an organization to support LGBTQ issues and candidates, a gay Republican former candidate for office told The Daily Beast. With an administration, and a vice president, wanting to add some window-dressing of LGBTQ support while they advance policies that harm LGBTQ Americans, Gregory sees his chance to gain real accessfor business or a jobnot for making a difference in peoples lives. This is about him.

Its a little sad to me that somebody has to do that for a job, a current Log Cabin staffer told The Daily Beast, after reading Angelos accusation that Buttigieg prolonged his time in the closet for political benefit.

There is some evidence that the gay conservative defense of Pence comes from a political, rather than principled, place.

In the aftermath of Pences signing of the 2015 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which gave legal cover to individuals and businesses who wished to discriminate against LGBT people due to their personal religious beliefs, Angelo said in an appearance on Hardball with Chris Matthews that his organization opposed the RFRA because its too broad. But in his Fox News op-ed, Angelo called the bill, which sparked nationwide protests and cost the state of Indiana an estimated $60 million in economic damages, a rather specific law with narrow applications.

As head of the Log Cabin Republicans, Angelo argued in 2013 that Republicans needed to pass LGBT non-discrimination legislation, making the workplace about merit and productivity, not discrimination and prejudice. But in a piece published last month in the Washington Examiner, Angelo said that the proposed Equality Act, a bill that would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, would compromise American civil rights, and called on LGBT people to oppose it.

When the Trump administration issued a directive that effectively barred most transgender people from serving in the U.S. military, Angelo accused the administration of stoking culture wars in defiance of the Pentagons stance on the fitness of trans people to serve. But speaking to The Daily Beast, Angelo said that the Trump administration has achieved a dtente with LGBT people, and said that the ban is a more nuanced issue than I would argue is being reported.

Im not an expert on transgender and Im not an expert on the militaryI defer to the Pentagon when questions like this come up, Angelo, who led an LGBT organization for six years, said. The Pentagon has the policy that the Pentagon has. Thats really all I can say about that. Im not an expert in transgender issues, Im not an expert in the military.

Angelo denied allegations from within gay conservative circles that his surrogacy on behalf of the Trump administration is being done in hopes of a job.

Right now, I am working with the Trump campaign as a surrogate. That work, however is volunteer, Angelo said. Theres lots of conversations Ive been having with lots of folks within the administration, outside of the administration… I dont know who those people are and I dont know what theyve told you, but Ive just been doing my own thing.

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