INDIANAPOLIS – On the fifth anniversary of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Indiana veterans came together to condemn Congressman Todd Young for his opposition to the repeal and his history of turning his back on LGBT Hoosiers.
In Indiana’s post-RFRA era, newspapers across the state reported on the sharp and pertinent criticism from South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, House Democratic Leader Scott Pelath, and Air Force veteran Rayna DeFoor on Young’s consistently anti-LGBT record.
The state’s most prominent gay elected official is condemning Republican U.S. Senate candidate Todd Young for his past support of policies aimed at excluding homosexuals from the nation’s military.
Democratic South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, a Navy veteran who announced last year that he is gay, said Tuesday that Young’s support for the federal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law — which mandated gay service members conceal their sexual orientation to remain in the military — should make Hoosiers think twice about promoting Young to the Senate.
“Congressman Young was on the wrong side of history,” Buttigieg said. “He was comfortable telling people like me, and many brave men and women that I’ve served with, that they didn’t have a place in the military.”
Buttigieg and House Democratic Leader Scott Pelath, an Army veteran from Michigan City, said as Young campaigns across Indiana touting his experience as a Marine, Hoosiers need to know that Young stood against providing all Americans the same opportunity to serve their country.
“He’s part of a school of thought that believes if you keep our LGBT citizens on the sidelines that you will win votes,” Pelath said.
“That’s certainly not one that we want to elevate to be the representative of our entire state, particularly at a time when we’re still suffering the aftereffects of RFRA.”
In 2015, Indiana briefly was subject to business boycotts after Gov. Mike Pence, the Republican vice presidential nominee, signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act which many Hoosiers believed, prior to its revision, licensed discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals.
“As somebody who came into the military during the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy, I can tell you that change meant a lot for a lot of people, including me,” said South Bend Mayor Peter Buttigieg, who served in Afghanistan. Buttigieg, who is gay, is an officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve.
Helmke noted the backlash from the corporate community after Gov. Mike Pence last year signed into law “religious freedom” legislation that critics said could be used to discriminate against gays and lesbians.
Democrats criticized Young for not joining the business community in speaking out against the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
“I suspect he has found a political benefit for standing against our LGBT friends and neighbors,” Rep. Scott Pelath, Indiana House Democratic leader, said in a call with reporters. Buttigieg also spoke on the call, which was organized by the Indiana Democratic Party.
“There was a long period in American history when men and women from Indiana and across the country were not able to serve or had to serve in the shadows because of discrimination based on sexual orientation,” Buttigieg said Tuesday. “That change (with the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell) meant a lot for a lot of people — including me.”
Young, a congressman from southern Indiana, was not in office when Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was repealed, but he did express his view on the issue in 2010 when running for his first term in the House of Representatives.
“Call me old fashioned and Midwestern, but I don’t think it’s good manners for anyone — heterosexual or homosexual — to discuss their sexual activities in the workplace,” Young said during a 2010 debate.
Young said during that 2010 debate that “I think we should not end this policy” of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. “It’s on balance worked, it has been a compromise, and it’s one that should continue,” he said.