Wilmington LGBTQ advocate reacts to Pete Buttigieg cabinet nomination

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — President-elect Joe Biden has named Pete Buttigieg as his nominee for secretary of transportation. Now we’re hearing reaction from the local LGBTQ community.

Buttigieg could become the first ever openly gay presidential cabinet secretary to be confirmed by the senate. One member of our local LGBTQ community explains the impact that could have.

“Honestly I didn’t think it would be this big of a deal, but it really is,” said Tyler Clarke.

Clarke is a longtime volunteer at the Frank Harr Foundation, a non-profit LGBTQ advocacy organization in Wilmington. He says seeing Pete Buttigieg potentially become to new secretary of transportation is a big moment for the community.

“It’s really exciting because for me, I’m interested in politics and growing up there was sort of this reality that being an out gay man and being a public figure were incompatible,” Clarke said.

Buttigieg would not technically be the first ever openly gay cabinet secretary. That would be republican Richard Grenell, who served as acting director of national intelligence for three months under the Trump administration.

Buttigieg will be the first to be sent to the senate for confirmation. He addressed the issue in his nomination acceptance speech.

“I can remember watching the news, 17 years old in Indiana, seeing a story about an appointee of President Clinton named to be an ambassador, attacked and denied a vote in the Senate because he was gay,” Buttigieg said.

Clarke, who is 26, feels the country has come a long way toward acceptance just in his lifetime.

“Honestly the idea that he wouldn’t be confirmed by the senate never even crossed my mind, which I think speaks a lot to where we are as a country now,” he said.

Clarke says Buttigieg’s nomination comes at a pivotal time in North Carolina, as House Bill 142 is set to expire December 1. It was a compromise to 2016’s controversial HB2, also known as the bathroom bill.

“We’re getting that sort of federal level acceptance right at a time when we’re going to start to be advocating for ourselves down here at this local level,” Clarke said.

With the end of HB142, cities and towns will now be able to enact measures to protect the LGBTQ community. Clarke says the Frank Harr Foundation will be holding the first of several meetings in January, aimed at educating the LGBTQ community how to get involved in local politics.

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