Believe it or not, gay candidates still face protests in 2019

In at least some circles, the presidential candidacy of Pete Buttigieg only meets the approval of Satan.

In at least some circles, the presidential candidacy of Pete Buttigieg only meets the approval of Satan. Getty

It's hard to see the upside to being an anti-gay protester, standing in public in grand declaration that the world has passed you by.

Someday your granddaughter will see the video. “Grandpa,” she will say with disgust, “you were that guy?” Then she'll spurn your invitations to Easter dinner for the next seven years.

Yet as presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg is discovering, That Guy still exists. And he's stalking Buttigieg across our neighbor to the south.

The 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is catching fire as the latest Democratic presidential sweetheart. He's a Harvard grad, a Rhodes scholar, and did a stint in Afghanistan with the Naval Reserve. He's also quick of wit and exceedingly human, without the usual protective layer of molded plastic.

Did we mention he's gay? Yes, he is, having married his husband last year. Which brings us back to the protesters.

Randall Terry is somewhat famous is conservative circles. He's the founder of Operation Rescue, the group that blockaded women's clinics back in the '80s and '90s. His pedigree as keeper of familial standards is impeccable within right-wing religious crowds, which is to say there are no real standards at all.

He was once booted from his church for trading in his wife for a young model. He also disowned his gay son, who decided to write about it for Out.

So Terry has naturally taken to stalking Mayor Pete across Iowa. As he told the Associated Press, Buttigieg “glorifies and normalizes a sinful behavior.”

Terry's go-to game is to heckle the candidate with references to Sodom and Gomorrah. He dresses in shirt and tie, with a sign that says “Mayor Pete” around his neck as he lashes a henchman dressed as Christ carrying the cross, while another man costumed as the devil narrates via loudspeaker.

“Yes, more blood, Peter! Every vote is a lash on the back of Christ.”

As street theater goes, it could use a new director.

There's something telling about the scene, though not what Terry intended. Iowa is a conservative state, trending moreso each year as its young evacuate for more exciting environs. There was a time, not that long ago, when Terry would have attracted throngs to his side.

But the footage now shows those throngs walking right on past. At middle school playgrounds and in small-town backyards, crowds heavy with gray hair come to see a 37-year-old gay man, the mayor of a town no bigger than Duluth, speak to the fate and future of our country. If you didn't know better, you'd think they'd entirely lost interest in what Buttigieg does in his own bedroom. 

Even in the farmland of Iowa, men like Terry have no choice but to watch the world saunter on by. And all he has to show for it are a few more empty chairs at the table for Easter.