Buttigieg endorsed by major California, Nevada LGBTQ group

Democratic presidential candidate former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg greats members of the audience at a campaign stop at Chickasaw Event Center, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020, in New Hampton, Iowa. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg has won the backing of Equality California, one of the nation's largest LGBTQ membership organizations, and its Nevada partner organization, an endorsement that could give him a boost in critical Western primaries.

While Buttigieg is the only openly gay candidate in the race, his endorsement by the organizations wasn't a lock. Every candidate was asked to fill out a questionnaire, and the endorsement committee also considered supporting Elizabeth Warren or Tom Steyer, the only Californian still in the race. But Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, impressed the committee with his detailed policies for protecting LGBTQ youth in schools and ending the HIV epidemic by 2030.

“When we had the combination of an LGBTQ candidate who had the most comprehensive and boldest policy agenda, and was also viable ... it was an easy decision,” said Rick Zbur, Equality California's executive director.

The organization boasts 900,000 members, making it the country's second largest membership organization for LGBTQ individuals behind the Human Rights Campaign, which does not plan to endorse in the Democratic presidential primary.

The endorsement, announced Thursday, comes less than a week before voting begins in Iowa, the leadoff caucus state. Equality California and Silver State Equality, its newly launched Nevada partnership, will focus on appealing to voters in both states. Nevada is the third state to vote, with a caucus on Feb. 22. California holds its primary on March 3, known as Super Tuesday, but millions of people who vote by mail will get their ballots next month.

Buttigieg, in an emailed statement, called the groups “unrelenting in their fight for LGBTQ+ people and our push for full equality.”

“My campaign is based around a shared future of belonging for all Americans, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity,” he said. "President Trump’s attacks on the LGBTQ+ community, especially our trans members, have shown us that the fight for equal rights did not end with marriage equality. I will be the President to continue that fight for equality.”

Every Democratic candidate had the opportunity to fill out a survey from the groups. Amy Klobuchar is the only major candidate who did not participate, said Samuel Garrett-Pate, a spokesman for the groups. Buttigieg, Steyer and Warren then participated in lengthy interviews with the endorsement committee.