Buttigieg says marrying his husband 'moved me closer to God'

  • Openly gay Democratic 2020 candidate Pete Buttigieg gave an emotional speech Sunday about his struggles with coming out and how he "would have done anything to not be gay" when he was younger.
  • He singled out Vice President Mike Pence, a conservative Christian who has openly discussed his opposition to same-sex marriage.
  • Buttigieg, a former Catholic who converted to the Episcopalian Church, said that marrying his husband, Chasten, "moved me closer to God."
  • He also slammed President Donald Trump's policies on transgender troops by citing his dubious medical exemption from the Vietnam War.
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Pete Buttigieg, the openly gay Democratic presidential candidate, told Vice President Mike Pence in a fiery speech on Sunday that his marriage to his husband "moved me closer to God."

Pence, a conservative Christian, has openly discussed his opposition to same-sex marriage and LGBT rights. In 2006, he argued on the House floor that being gay was a choice and that keeping gay people from marrying was not discrimination, but a fulfilment of "God's idea."

Read more:Here are some of Mike Pence's most controversial stances on gay rights, abortion, and smoking

Speaking at the LGBTQ Victory Fund Champagne Brunch in Washington, DC, on Sunday, Buttigieg, an Episcopalian Christian who used to be Catholic, discussed his own struggles with his identity.

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WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 23: Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigeig speaks during a news conference January 23, 2019 in Washington, DC. Buttigeig held a news conference to announce that he is forming an exploratory committee to run for the Democratic presidential nomination. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS -- Episode 547 -- Pictured: (l-r) South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg during an interview with host Seth Meyers on June 22, 2017 -- (Photo by: Lloyd Bishop/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, center, speaks with attendees during a campaign stop in Ankeny, Iowa, U.S., on Friday, Feb. 8, 2019. A flurry of proposals to slap new taxes on the ultra-wealthy, extend Medicare to all Americans and make college debt-free reflect a rapidly changing Democratic Party that sees a sharp left turn as the path to defeating President Donald Trump. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, speaks during a campaign stop in Ankeny, Iowa, U.S., on Friday, Feb. 8, 2019. A flurry of proposals to slap new taxes on the ultra-wealthy, extend Medicare to all Americans and make college debt-free reflect a rapidly changing Democratic Party that sees a sharp left turn as the path to defeating President Donald Trump. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
THE VIEW - Mayor of South Bend, Indiana and democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg visits ABC's 'The View' on Thursday, January 31, 2019. 'The View' airs Monday-Friday (11:00 am-12:00 noon, ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Lorenzo Bevilaqua/ABC via Getty Images) JOY BEHAR, PETER BUTTIGIEG, SUNNY HOSTIN
South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who is exploring a Presidential candidacy speaks at the University of Chicago on February 13, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Joshua Lott / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSHUA LOTT/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 14: 32nd Mayor of South Bend, Indiana and 2020 Democratic Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg is seen arriving at 'The Late Show With Stephen Colbert' at the Ed Sullivan Theater on February 14, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images)
AUSTIN, TX - MARCH 09: Pete Buttigieg speaks onstage at Conversations About America's Future: Mayor Pete Buttigieg during the 2019 SXSW Conference and Festivals at Austin City Limits Live at the Moody Theater on March 8, 2019 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Hutton Supancic/Getty Images for SXSW)
NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 13: The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and guest Pete Buttigieg during Thursday's February 14, 2019 show. (Photo by Scott Kowalchyk/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - JULY 07: Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks on stage at 2019 ESSENCE Festival Presented By Coca-Cola at Ernest N. Morial Convention Center on July 07, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for ESSENCE)
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - JULY 07: Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks at the 25th Essence Festival at Ernest N. Morial Convention Center on July 07, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Josh Brasted/FilmMagic)
PROVINCETOWN, MA - JULY 5: Signs emblazoned with "Pete Town" are left behind after a rally for U.S. presidential candidate and mayor of South Bend, IN Pete Buttigieg in Provincetown, MA on July 5, 2019. Hundreds of people were in attendance for the democratic presidential hopeful. (Photo by Erin Clark for The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
PROVINCETOWN, MA - JULY 5: Theresa Moehlman, left, and Andrea Sawyer attend a rally for U.S. presidential candidate and mayor South Bend, IN Pete Buttigieg in Provincetown, MA on July 5, 2019. Hundreds of people were in attendance for the Democratic presidential hopeful. (Photo by Erin Clark for The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - JULY 02: Democratic presidential candidate and South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg (L) meets with Rev. Jesse Jackson at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition Annual International Convention on July 2, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. Buttigieg is dealing with racial tension in South Bend following the shooting death of Eric Logan, a black man, who was shot by South Bend Police Sgt. Ryan O'Neill, who is white. O'Neill shot Logan while investigating a report of car break-ins in the area. Logan was reported to be holding a knife when he was shot. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - JULY 02: Democratic presidential candidate and South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg (L) speaks with Rev. Jesse Jackson at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition Annual International Convention on July 2, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. Buttigieg is dealing with racial tension in South Bend following the shooting death of Eric Logan, a black man, who was shot by South Bend Police Sgt. Ryan O'Neill, who is white. O'Neill shot Logan while investigating a report of car break-ins in the area. Logan was reported to be holding a knife when he was shot. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - JULY 02: Democratic presidential candidate and South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition Annual International Convention on July 2, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. Buttigieg is dealing with racial tension in South Bend following the shooting death of Eric Logan, a black man, who was shot by South Bend Police Sgt. Ryan O'Neill, who is white. O'Neill shot Logan while investigating a report of car break-ins in the area. Logan was reported to be holding a knife when he was shot. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
SOUTH BEND, INDIANA - JUNE 29: Democratic presidential candidate and South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg greets residents before the start of a Peace Walk hosted by Christ Temple Apostolic Church on June 29, 2019 in South Bend, Indiana. The event was held as the funeral for Eric Logan was being held in nearby Mishawaka. Logan was shot and killed by South Bend Police Sgt. Ryan O'Neill who was investigating a report of car break-ins in the area. Logan was reported to be holding a knife when he was shot. The shooting caused outrage in the community and turmoil for Buttigieg as a mayor and as a candidate. “It’s a mess” said Buttigieg referring to the shooting during the presidential debate in Miami on Thursday. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
SOUTH BEND, INDIANA - JUNE 29: Democratic presidential candidate and South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg greets residents before the start of a Peace Walk hosted by Christ Temple Apostolic Church on June 29, 2019 in South Bend, Indiana. The event was held as the funeral for Eric Logan was being held in nearby Mishawaka. Logan was shot and killed by South Bend Police Sgt. Ryan O'Neill who was investigating a report of car break-ins in the area. Logan was reported to be holding a knife when he was shot. The shooting caused outrage in the community and turmoil for Buttigieg as a mayor and as a candidate. “It’s a mess” said Buttigieg referring to the shooting during the presidential debate in Miami on Thursday. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
SOUTH BEND, INDIANA - JUNE 29: Democratic presidential candidate and South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg participates in a Peace Walk hosted by Christ Temple Apostolic Church on June 29, 2019 in South Bend, Indiana. The event was held as the funeral for Eric Logan was being held in nearby Mishawaka. Logan was shot and killed by South Bend Police Sgt. Ryan O'Neill who was investigating a report of car break-ins in the area. Logan was reported to be holding a knife when he was shot. The shooting caused outrage in the community and turmoil for Buttigieg as a mayor and as a candidate. “It’s a mess” said Buttigieg referring to the shooting during the presidential debate in Miami on Thursday. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
HOMESTEAD, FLORIDA - JUNE 28: Democratic Presidential candidate, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former housing secretary Julian Castro, former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper, and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) speak to the media as they visit the outside of a detention center for migrant children on June 28, 2019 in Homestead, Florida. Democratic presidential candidates visited the detention center, which is the nation's largest center for detaining immigrant children, as the candidates spend time in the Miami area after participating in a nationally televised debate. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
NBC NEWS ELECTION COVERAGE -- The First Democratic Debate -- Pictured: Pete Buttigieg, at The Knight Concert Hall, Miami Florida on Thursday, June 27, 2019-- (Photo by: Gustavo Cabellero /NBC News/MSNBC/Telemundo)
Democratic presidential hopefuls Mayor of South Bend, Indiana Pete Buttigieg speaks during the second Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season hosted by NBC News at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, Florida, June 27, 2019. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) / ALTERNATIVE CROP (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
COLUMBIA, SC - JUNE 22: Democratic presidential candidate South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg addresses the crowd at the 2019 South Carolina Democratic Party State Convention on June 22, 2019 in Columbia, South Carolina. Democratic presidential hopefuls are converging on South Carolina this weekend for a host of events where the candidates can directly address an important voting bloc in the Democratic primary. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
RICHMOND, VIRGINIA - JUNE 15: Democratic presidential candidate and Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg attends the 2019 Blue Commonwealth Gala fundraiser June 15, 2019 in Richmond, Virginia. Nearly 1,800 attended the event featuring Buttigieg and Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
CHARLESTON, SC - JUNE 15: Democratic presidential candidate South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg participates in the Black Economic Alliance Forum at the Charleston Music Hall on June 15, 2019 in Charleston, South Carolina. The Black Economic Alliance, is a nonpartisan group founded by Black executives and business leaders, and is hosting the forum in order to help Black voters understand the candidate's platforms. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 12: Democratic presidential candidate Mayor Pete Buttigieg shakes a woamans hand as he attends a rally protesting against President Donald Trump policies outside of the White House in Washington on Wednesday June 12, 2019. (Photo by Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)
CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA - JUNE 09: Democratic presidential candidate and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks at the Iowa Democratic Party's Hall of Fame Dinner on June 9, 2019 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Nearly all of the 23 Democratic candidates running for president were campaigning in Iowa this weekend. President Donald Trump has two events scheduled in the state on Tuesday. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
BLOOMINGTON, INDIANA, UNITED STATES - 2019/06/11: South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who is running for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States answers question during a press gaggle after delivering an hour long speech on foreign policy and security at the Indiana University Auditorium in Bloomington. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
DES MOINES, IOWA - JUNE 08: Democratic presidential candidate and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg arrives for a campaign stop at the Capital City Pride Fest on June 08, 2019 in Des Moines, Iowa. Most of the more than 20 candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for president are campaigning at various locations in Iowa this weekend. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
SHOWALTER FOUNTAIN, BLOOMINGTON, INDIANA, UNITED STATES - 2019/06/10: Screen printed posters dry after Jim Beck, of badkneests, made them as a fundraiser for South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who is running for the Democratic nomination for president of the United States, at the Showalter Fountain on the campus of Indiana University. Beck was exchanging the posters for a donation he will contribute to Buttigieg's presidential campaign before a representative of the auditorium said he had to move to the free speech zone blocks away in Dunn Meadow. Tickets for Buttigieg's speech on foreign policy and national security Tuesday were being distributed nearby at the Indiana University Auditorium. For those who didn't get tickets Monday, according to a press release, "A standby line for general public who did not claim a ticket will be recognized beginning at 9:30 a.m. in front of the School of Art, Architecture, and Design just west of the Auditorium.". (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
DES MOINES, IOWA - JUNE 08: Democratic presidential candidate and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks during a campaign stop at the Capital City Pride Fest on June 08, 2019 in Des Moines, Iowa. Most of the more than 20 candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for president are campaigning at various locations in Iowa this weekend. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - JUNE 06: Democratic presidential candidate and Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg speaks to a crowd at the African American Leadership Council on June 6, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. The DNC hosted its African American Leadership Council (AALC) Summit at the Westin Peachtree Plaza in downtown Atlanta. (Photo by Dustin Chambers/Getty Images)
MSNBC - Election Coverage "Hardball Town Hall with Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Chris Matthews" -- Pictured: (l-r) Chris Matthews, Mayor Pete Buttigieg (Photo by: David Moir/MSNBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 01: Supporters of Democratic presidential candidate South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg hold signs as he speaks during the California Democrats 2019 State Convention at the Moscone Center on June 01, 2019 in San Francisco, California. Several Democratic presidential candidates are speaking at the California Democratic Convention that runs through Sunday. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 23: Democratic presidential candidate Mayor Pete Buttigieg (R) answers questions from reporter Robert Costa (L) at a Washington Post Live discussion May 23, 2019 in Washington, DC. Buttigieg’s appearance was the first of the Washington Post’s “2020 Candidates” series of discussions. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 22: Mayor Pete Buttigieg poses backstage at Mayor Pete Buttigieg in Conversation with The Washington Post's Jonathan Capehart interview at 92nd Street Y on May 22, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FLORIDA - MAY 20: Democratic presidential candidate and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks during a grassroots fundraiser at the Wynwood Walls on May 20, 2019 in Miami, Florida. Buttigieg is one of more than 20 candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for president. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FLORIDA - MAY 20: Democratic presidential candidate and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks during a grassroots fundraiser at the Wynwood Walls on May 20, 2019 in Miami, Florida. Buttigieg is one of more than 20 candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for president. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
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Buttigieg said: "I would have done anything to not be gay ... It's hard to face the truth that there were times in my life when, if you had shown me exactly what it was inside me that made me gay, I would have cut it out with a knife."

He also discussed his personal experience coming out in 2015, saying: "If I had not deployed to Afghanistan I would never have found the courage to come out.

"There's something that happens to you when you write a letter and put it in an envelope and write 'just in case' on the outside, leave it where your family can find it if they have to. It forces you to realize that you only get one life."

"My marriage to [husband] Chasten has made me a better man. And yes, Mr Vice President, it has moved me closer to God," he added, prompting applause.

Buttigieg, who regularly discusses his faith, was baptized and raised Catholic, but is now an Episcopalian. It’s not clear when he converted. The Episcopalian Church welcomes LGBT members, and in 2003 consecrated its first openly gay bishop.

"Speaking only for myself, I can tell you that if me being gay was a choice, it was a choice that was made far, far above my pay grade," he said.

"And that's the thing I wish the Mike Pences of the world would understand ... If you've got a problem with who I am, your problem is not with me. Your quarrel, sir, is with my creator."

Buttigieg also slammed President Donald Trump's administration for their lack of protection for transgender service members by taking a swipe at Trump's Vietnam War record

Trump received a medical exemption from the Vietnam War for having bone spurs — a diagnosis that has been subject to skepticism, as the president appears not to have them now.

Buttigieg said: "The struggle is not over when transgender troops, ready to put their lives on the line for this country, have their careers threatened with ruin one tweet at a time by a commander in chief who himself pretended to be disabled to get out of serving when it was his turn."

Read more:Trump biographer examined his feet for bone spurs that helped him avoid Vietnam but 'didn't see anything'

Pence has a long history anti-LGBT remarks.

During his first run for Congress in 2000, Pence suggested that federal money used to fund HIV/AIDS research should be diverted "conversion therapy" programs, which attempts to change people's sexual orientation.

Read more:The Irish prime minister brought his boyfriend to meet Vice President Mike Pence

In 2010, he also voted against repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," a policy that would have allowed LGBT Americans serve openly in the military.

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