Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg sharply criticized Florida’s new “Don’t Say Gay” law signed this week by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and ridiculed what he called the “literally nonsensical” comments about his personal life by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., at a rally with former President Donald Trump.
Buttigieg, the first openly gay man who has served in a presidential Cabinet and who together with his husband, Chasten, adopted twin infants last summer, cast his objections to the new Florida law in stark personal terms. (The law would ban any discussion about sexual orientation and gender identity in some elementary school grades.)
“Look, bottom line, it’s hurting kids,” Buttigieg said about the Florida law during an interview for the Yahoo News “Skullduggery” podcast. “I think about what life might be like for our kids when they start school. If they were in a place like Florida, it might stop them from mentioning they had a great time over the weekend with their dads.”
DeSantis, widely considered a prospective Republican presidential candidate in 2024, has promoted the new law as a means of combating a “woke gender ideology” about sexual orientation that is being foisted upon young school children by leftist activists.
But without mentioning DeSantis by name, Buttigieg criticized political figures on the right for pushing such legislation — more than 200 bills eroding protections for transgender and gay youth have been introduced in state legislatures around the country — describing them as a calculated diversion from more pressing matters.
“This is part of a very familiar political playbook,” he said. “And I think the reason that this playbook is being pulled off the shelf is you have a lot of folks who don’t have actual plans for the things that are affecting so much of everyday life.
“They’re looking for somebody to target, to change the subject to these culture wars. And they’re really doubling down on these culture wars. Look, we’re going to stand our ground and stand with people who are vulnerable. At the end of the day, they’re busy worrying about which books to ban and we’re here trying to figure out which bridges to fix.”
Buttigieg also mocked comments about his marriage made over the weekend by Greene at a rally headlined by Trump to boost the campaign of former Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., in his primary challenge to the state’s Republican Gov. Brian Kemp.
“You know what? Pete Buttigieg can take his electric vehicles and his bicycles, and he and his husband can stay out of our girls’ bathrooms,” Greene said, drawing loud cheers from the boisterous crowd.
“The reason you hear somebody like that making nonsensical, literally nonsensical comments like that — I don’t know what you’d do with an electric vehicle in any bathroom — they don’t want to talk about what we’re actually working on,” said Buttigieg when asked about Greene’s remarks. “So, they’re going to keep tripling down on anything that can divide and demonize and demoralize, and through that capture attention.”
Buttigieg also seemed to question why the media even devotes coverage to remarks by members of Congress like Greene.
“We also have to be smart about where we send our attention,” he added. “I know the most shocking thing somebody said or did yesterday gets the most attention today. But if I were to make a list of the 10 or 20 or 50 or 200 members of Congress whose commentary or thoughts or words, it would be most constructive to be debating or weighing right now, it wouldn’t be the two or three members of Congress who get the most attention on Twitter for whatever outrage they try to outdo each other on.”
Buttigieg’s comments came during a broader discussion about major economic issues he and his department are dealing with, most prominently soaring gas prices that are fueling inflation. Asked about the move by several governors — including those in Maryland, Georgia and Connecticut — to suspend state gas taxes, as well as a proposal in Congress by Democratic senators Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire and Sen. Mark Kelly of Arizona — to suspend the federal gas tax for the rest of the year — Buttigieg said only, “I think we need to be open to any idea that can bring relief at the pump.”
But he pointedly declined to endorse any such plans, noting that there was a “downside” to gas tax holidays because they would reduce revenue for highway trust funds that pay for maintaining and rebuilding roads and bridges.
But at the same time, Buttigieg touted the results of the trillion-dollar infrastructure bill signed by President Biden that his department is doling out. He’s using the infusion of cash in part to address critical supply chain issues, he said, pointing to $50 million recently awarded to the Port of Long Beach in California to develop on-dock rails to remove containers from ships.
Asked about the efforts of some high-profile Republicans, such as Florida Sen. Rick Scott, who have sought to take credit for some of the infrastructure projects in their states after opposing the bill in Congress, Buttigieg laughed and said: “I mean it is striking, right? I think most people see through that.
“But at the end of the day, to be honest, the most important thing is just getting the projects done. And if that means somebody trying to collect political credit in a way that’s not really consistent with how they voted, we’re going to notice that. But I’m going to get less hung up on that because, frankly, I don’t want residents or citizens of any part of the country to be punished because of the behavior of their politicians.”