Openly gay Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg today officially launched his potentially historic 2020 campaign.

Buttigieg, the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana, has seen a surge in polling and fundraising in recent weeks as his media profile soared.

Buttigieg has spoken widely about his sexuality as a component of his political vision, using his campaign launch to talk about his marriage to his husband, Chasten.

“My name is Pete Buttigieg. They call me Mayor Pete. I am a proud son of South Bend, Indiana,” he said at the Pete for America launch in South Bend.

“And I am running for President of the United States.

“I recognize the audacity of doing this as a Midwestern millennial mayor. More than a little bold — at age 37— to seek the highest office in the land.

“We live in a moment that compels us each to act. The forces changing our country today are tectonic.

“Forces that help to explain what made this current presidency even possible. This time it’s not just about winning an election, it’s about winning an era,” he said.

Buttigieg thanked his husband “for giving me the strength to do this, and the grounding to be myself as we go”, adding on a more political note that “you’re not free if a county clerk gets to tell you who you ought to marry because their idea of their political beliefs.”

“Our marriage exists by the grace of a single vote on the US Supreme Court,” he said.

“Nine women and men sat down in a room and took a vote, and brought me the most important freedom in my life.”

Buttigieg is not the first openly gay presidential candidate; Fred Karger launched an unsuccessful campaign for the Republican nomination in 2012, which eventually went to Mitt Romney.

But the surge in support, and reports of favourable early polling in battleground primary states, make Buttigieg a serious contender, despite his lack of name recognition compared to political veterans like Senator Bernie Sanders, who lost the 2016 Democratic nomination to Hillary Clinton, and former Vice President Joe Biden.

The flurry of media attention around Buttigieg has seen him talk about not coming out until 33 years old, saying that if he had been offered a pill that could make him straight, he “would have swallowed it before you had time to give me a sip of water.”

“If you showed me exactly what it was inside me that made me gay, I would have cut it out with a knife,” he said.

“If I had had a chance to do that, I wouldn’t have found my way to Chasten. The best thing in my life, my marriage, might not have happened at all.”

Buttigieg, who is Episcopalian and a former Naval Intelligence Officer, has also publicly criticised current Vice President Mike Pence’s views on LGBTI rights, saying, “That’s the thing I wish the Mike Pences of the world would understand. That if you got a problem with who I am, your problem is not with me — your quarrel, sir, is with my creator.”

There are currently 18 candidates who have either launched their campaigns or launched exploratory committees, with Biden expected to announce his candidacy later this month.

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