Buttigieg responds to Pence: 'My problem is when' VP's 'religious beliefs are used as an excuse to harm'

Democratic presidential hopeful Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegButtigieg accuses Trump of 'paying lip service' to LGBT rights Warren policy ideas show signs of paying off Overnight Health Care — Presented by Campaign for Accountability — Momentum builds for federal laws enshrining abortion rights | Missouri lawmakers approve bill banning abortions at 8 weeks | Warren unveils plan to protect abortion rights MORE on Tuesday once again took aim at Vice President Pence, arguing he uses religion as an excuse to "harm people."

“The vice president is entitled to his religious beliefs," Buttigieg, the openly gay mayor of South Bend, Ind., said on CNN's "New Day."

"My problem is when those religious beliefs are used as an excuse to harm other people,” he said.

ADVERTISEMENT

"That was a huge issue for us in Indiana when he advanced a discriminatory bill in 2015 under the guise of religious freedom, that said it was lawful to discriminate, provided you invoked religion as your excuse," Buttigieg continued, referring to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that Pence signed into law

The Indiana law allowed businesses to use religious liberty as a defense if they believed government was burdening their exercise of religion. Critics argued the law would allow businesses to discriminate against the LGBTQ community. 

"I just believe that’s wrong," Buttigieg said. "This isn’t about him as a human being. This is about policies that hurt people, policies that hurt children."

The mayor later added that Pence has still never acknowledged that it 
"shouldn’t be legal to discriminate against people in this country because they’re LGBT.

"I would love to see him evolve on that issue."

Buttigieg, who has enjoyed a rise in polls and fundraising in recent weeks as his high-profile feud with the vice president has drawn more and more attention, was known to have a cordial relationship with Pence when the two were both serving in Indiana.

Pence and his wife, Karen, have pushed back against his criticism, saying he is unfairly taking aim at them. 

"I've known mayor Pete for many years. We worked very closely together when I was governor, and I considered him a friend. And he knows I don't have a problem with him," Pence said last week, adding that he thinks Buttigieg's quarrels may be with the First Amendment. "I don't believe in discrimination against anybody. I treat everybody the I want to be treated."

Buttigieg formally launched his presidential bid over the weekend.