Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg may want to get his supporters to the polls, but his refusal to bring them to a pole is drawing the ire of some in the LGBT community.
The former South Bend, Ind., mayor's campaign canceled a fundraiser at Dark Lady, a gay Rhode Island nightclub, following a dispute over the presence of a stripper pole, according to the venue.
Dark Lady's manager told WPRI that campaign staffers asked the club to remove the pole before the event. When the club refused, staffers canceled the fundraiser. "We guess this is what the gay candidate does to the gay community! #downonthepoles #dancersforanyoneelse," the owners complained on Facebook. "We're open, we're here, we're queer, get over it!"
The Buttigieg campaign's cancellation angered pole dancers including Steven Retchless, an America's Got Talent semi-finalist and the 2010 American Pole Fitness Champion.
"The pole stigma is associated with sex work, but sex workers whether they're on a pole or not are humans, too, and shouldn't be discriminated against for providing a service as old as time," Retchless told the Washington Blade. "Get over it and support the whole gay community."
Philip Deal, founder of Mr. Pole Dance America, told the LGBT publication that Buttigieg's decision was "shameful."
"This points to a bigger issue in the LGBT community which is young gay people don't know our history and that's a serious problem. LGBTQ people died for the right to walk into a bar, dance, and hold hands with their lovers without having to fear police brutality," Deal said. "If Pete Buttigieg does not want to embrace our glorious gay culture, he doesn't need the gay vote."
The Rhode Island fundraiser was supposed to feature an appearance from Buttigieg's husband, Chasten. The openly gay candidate disputed the idea that he was insensitive to "inclusive spaces."
"Our commitment to LGBTQ+ spaces is strong and we always strive to hold events in inclusive spaces," the Buttigieg campaign said in a statement. "Pete and Chasten know first-hand how important it is for members of the LGBTQ+ community to have a safe space to gather and our campaign would never do anything to intentionally disrespect such a space."