Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke came to the defense of fellow 2020 rival Pete Buttigieg after anti-gay protesters heckled Buttigieg at an event in Texas on Friday.
“Texans don’t stand for this kind of homophobia and hatred. Mayor Pete, we are grateful you came to Texas and hope to see you and Chasten back again soon,” O’Rourke, a former Texas congressman, wrote on Twitter.
O’Rourke elaborated on his decision to come to Buttigieg’s defense while campaigning Saturday in Iowa.
“I’m a proud American, I’m a proud Texan, and the hatred directed towards Pete Buttigieg last night was not reflective or representative of my state or of this country, so I wanted to call it out immediately, first and foremost,” he told reporters.
Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, was addressing the Dallas County Democratic Dinner on Friday when his speech was interrupted at least four times by a group of protesters.
One yelled, “Marriage is between a man and a woman.” Another yelled, “Repent.”
The audience applauded over the protests and chanted “Pete” to drown out the protesters, who were eventually escorted from the room by security.
“I’m just thinking of that scripture that says bless and do not curse,” Buttigieg, who has been open about his Episcopalian faith, said after one of the interruptions.
He also said his service in Afghanistan was “for the purpose of defending that gentleman’s freedom of speech,” referring to one of the protesters who interrupted him.
This is not the first time Buttigieg has come up against anti-gay protesters – he was also heckled by anti-gay chants during two campaign events in Iowa last month.
Buttigieg came out in 2015, months before he was re-elected as South Bend’s mayor. If elected, he would be the first married gay US president.
“We are so lucky to have somebody like Mayor Pete running for president right now,” O’Rourke said campaigning in Iowa Saturday. “I think we have to set the example. We can’t just call out intolerance and hatred, we have to show that we don’t just tolerate one another, we embrace one another.”
CNN’s Christian Sierra, Annie Grayer and Aishvarya Kavi contributed to this report.