Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg pushed back against attacks on his sexuality, days after allies of President Donald Trump questioned whether Americans are ready for a gay candidate who kisses his husband onstage.
"Well, I am in a faithful, loving, committed marriage. I'm proud of my marriage. And I'm proud of my husband," Buttigieg, who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, said on Fox News.
"And I'm not going to be lectured on family values from the likes of Rush Limbaugh or anybody who supports Donald J. Trump as the moral as well as political leader of the United States," he added.
"America has moved on, and we should have a politics of belonging that welcomes everybody."
Buttigieg was referring to attacks by radio host Rush Limbaugh, who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Trump this month. In a recent episode of his radio programme, Limbaugh framed his comments as an ostensible analysis of how Democrats feel.
"They're sitting there, and they're looking at Mayor Pete - a 37-year-old gay guy, mayor of South Bend, loves to kiss his husband on the debate stage. And they're saying, okay, how's this going to look, a 37-year-old gay guy kissing his husband onstage next to Mr Man Donald Trump? What's going to happen there?" Limbaugh said. Buttigieg is actually 38.
Separately, Sebastian Gorka, a former deputy assistant to the president and a Trump campaign surrogate, last week questioned on his own radio programme why Buttigieg, "a homosexual man," was "lecturing us about the sanctity of life in the womb."
Buttigieg dismissed the notion that his sexuality could be used against him by Trump in a general-election matchup, noting that he was overwhelmingly re-elected as South Bend mayor after coming out as gay. He added that he believes Americans are in favour of a politics of inclusivity rather than division.
"That's what the American people are for, and I am saddened for what the Republican Party has become if they embrace that kind of homophobic rhetoric," he said on Fox News.