Politics

Video shows Iowa caucus voter pulling support for Pete Buttigieg after learning he's married to a man

Key Points
  • An Iowa Democratic caucus voter who agreed to back Pete Buttigieg rescinded her support after learning that the former South Bend, Indiana, mayor is gay and married to another man.
  • "Are you saying that he has the same-sex partner? Pete?" the voter said on a video of her electoral about-face that went viral after it was posted on Twitter by filmmaker Annabel Park.
  • Buttigieg married his spouse, Chasten Buttigieg, in June 2018.
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Video shows Iowa caucus voter pulling support for Pete Buttigieg after learning he's married to a man

An Iowa Democratic caucus voter who agreed to back Pete Buttigieg on Monday night dramatically rescinded her support after being stunned to learn what millions of people already knew about the former South Bend, Indiana, mayor — he's gay and married to another man.

The voter had been a supporter of Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., before joining Buttigieg backers at the caucus site in Crestwood High School in Cresco, Iowa.

The voter then overheard some of the backers mention Buttigieg's spouse, Chasten Buttigieg, whom he married in June 2018.

"Are you saying that he has the same-sex partner? Pete?" the voter said on a video of her electoral about-face that went viral Tuesday after it was posted on Twitter by filmmaker Annabel Park.

"Are you kidding?" she said.

"Yes," replied Nikki van den Heever, who was wrangling votes for Buttigieg at the caucus. "He's married to him."

"Then I don't want anybody like that in the White House," the voter said. "So can I have my card back?"

"I never knew that," she added.

Van den Heever then told her, "The whole point of it is, though, he's a human being, right? Just like you and me, and it shouldn't really matter."

But the voter shot back, "Well, he better read the Bible."

"He does, and he says that God doesn't choose a political party," van den Heever said.

The voter cut her off, "Why does it say in the Bible that a man should marry a woman then?"

"How come this has never been brought out before?"

"I never heard it," the voter said.

Van den Heever said, "I guess what I would like you to just think deep inside and think should it matter if it's a man or if they're a woman or if they're heterosexual or homosexual if you believe in what they say."

The voter replied, "It all just went right down the toilet, that's where it all went."

Nikki van den Heever, precinct captain for Iowa caucus campaign of Pete Buttigieg
Source: Annabel Park

Van den Heever said the voter had a "total right to her opinion."

She noted that she was a Christian and said, as she put her hand on the shoulder of her young son standing next to her, "What I teach my son is, 'Love is love, and we're all human beings.'"

Van den Heever declined to comment when contacted by CNBC.

The voter did not respond to requests for comment.

Buttigieg campaign spokesman Chris Meagher did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the video.

Laura Hubka, the Democratic chair of Howard County, where Cresco is located, told CNBC that the voter was allowed to undo her ballot for Buttigieg — and then switch her support to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

Hubka, who knows both women in the video, said she was "very proud" of van den Heever for how she handled the voter's reaction.

Van den Heever "is a wonderful example of Cresco," Hubka wrote in a tweet containing the video.

Hubka said it was ironic that the voter was so adamant about not supporting a gay candidate, when Warren and every other Democratic contender support same-sex marriage.

"Everyone tried to explain that to her," Hubka said.

"She just doesn't want a gay person in the White House," Hubka said. "I don't know what her deal with it is."

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Hubka said it was a good thing for people to see the video so that "people understand in small town, rural communities we have people that aren't homophobes."

Van den Heever, Hubka said, "is a good, church-going Christian woman" who believes that "God doesn't own the one political party."

The other woman, Hubka said, "Does not represent all of rural Iowa."

Park, who filmed the encounter, told CNBC, "I was really struck by how Nikki handled the situation, which is why I posted it" online.

"I want people to see how you can talk with somebody with real compassion, but also with persistence and engage them on a deep level," Park said. "I thought she was a shinging example of how to have these conversations at a deep level."

"She kept at it, she kept trying to engage this woman ... and it was beautiful to see," Park said.

Buttigieg came out as gay in a June 2015 op-ed for a local South Bend newspaper, when the then-33-year-old Indiana native was running to be reelected as the mayor of the city.

Just a few months later, he began a relationship with junior high school teacher Chasten Buttigieg, nee Glezman, whom he had met through a dating app, Hinge.

Democratic presidential candidate former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg (R) and his husband Chasten (L) wave to supporters after the candidate spoke at Northwest Junior High School during a Get Out The Caucus rally February 2, 2020 in Coralville, Iowa.
Win McNamee | Getty Images

The Buttigiegs have been covered extensively as a couple throughout the 2020 campaign. In May, they posed together for the cover of Time Magazine, which carried the headline, "First Family."

A wide range of news outlets have written stories about Chasten, including Business Insider, Politico, Oprah Magazine and Marie Claire.

However, Buttigieg does not normally dwell on his sexuality in his campaign speeches.

But at a rally in Iowa last week, he said that seeing the state legalize gay marriage in 2009 gave him hope.

"Iowa has this beautiful capacity for showing what can be done for people who aren't quite sure," Buttigieg said.

"I was a volunteer — first time I ever came through Iowa, first time I set foot in this state, they sent me to Creston as a volunteer on the Obama campaign in 2008," he said.

"And I was here in Iowa when this state changed what the country and world thought was possible in American presidential politics," Buttigieg said.

"And then, about a decade ago, I wasn't here to see it, but I was watching from where I lived, when this state gave me permission to believe that someone like me could be wearing this wedding ring that I've got on right now."

— Additional reporting by CNBC's Yelena Dzhanova.