Pete Buttigieg, the openly gay South Bend, Indiana, mayor vying for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020, was heckled several times at a Dallas event Friday night by anti-gay religious protesters who have been following him on the campaign trail.
But the protesters were soon condemned by Buttigieg's Texan competitor Beto O'Rourke.
Speaking at the Dallas County Democratic Party dinner, Buttigieg was interrupted on at least four occasions by hecklers, according to CNN reporter D.J. Judd, who covered the event. (The local CBS affiliate said there was a total of five protesters within 10 minutes.)
"One yelled 'Marriage is between a man and a woman!' Another yelled 'Repent!'" Judd tweeted.
Buttigieg responded by saying the protesters made him recall his military service. (He served for seven months in Afghanistan in 2014 as part of the US Navy Reserves while he was mayor of South Bend.)
"That moment when I was packing my bags for Afghanistan for the purpose of defending that gentleman's freedom of speech," he told the crowd.
Judd also tweeted footage of one woman attempting to shout about abortion — "What about the babies?" — as the crowd clapped in unison to drown her out.
Within hours O'Rourke, the former Texas representative who ran unsuccessfully for the Senate in his state last year against Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, shared Judd's video on Twitter and condemned the protesters.
"Texans don’t stand for this kind of homophobia and hatred," O'Rourke wrote. "Mayor Pete, we are grateful you came to Texas and hope to see you and Chasten back again soon." (Buttigieg married his husband, Chasten Buttigieg, in June last year.)
The hecklers were part of a group led by Randall Terry, an anti-gay and anti-abortion advocate who has been following Buttigieg around the campaign trail.
On his website, Terry had advertised a "Dallas Tour," featuring a photograph depicting some of the people later filmed heckling the Buttigieg event.
Terry also personally interrupted a Buttigieg event in Iowa last month by shouting about "Sodom and Gomorrah,” but he was soon drowned out and booed by the mayor's supporters.
"The good news is, the condition of my soul is in the hands of God," Buttigieg told the crowd, "but the Iowa caucuses are up to you."