Out Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg chastised Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and John Cornyn (R-TX), as well as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), for their attacks on LGBTQ rights, questioning why they believe they are qualified to judge and tear apart LGBTQ families and take trans children away from supportive parents when no one is attacking their families in the same way.

Buttigieg was attending the Texas Tribune Festival in 2022. Journalist Evan Smith spoke with Buttigieg for over an hour, mostly about transportation policy, but also about Cruz and Cornyn’s stated opposition to the Respect for Marriage Act, which would protect federal same-sex marriage rights if the Supreme Court overturned its 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision.

Buttigieg began talking about how happy he is with his family – his husband Chasten and their two children – and said, “It’s perplexing to me that anyone would want to tear that up.”

“I’ve met your senators and governor,” he told the Texan reporter. “I’m not familiar with their spouses.” I don’t give much thought to their marriages. But I can’t imagine myself attempting to undo one of their marriages. So, what makes them think they’re qualified to pass judgment on mine?”

He claimed that freedom in America has already peaked, citing the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which ended the federal right to an abortion in the United States by overturning Roe v. Wade.

“The best thing about America is that, more or less, every generation has seen greater rights and freedoms than the generation before it,” he said. “It hasn’t been a straight line; it’s been a zig-zag, but if you look at the big picture, history has moved – in this country – in a very clear direction toward more rights, more freedoms, freedoms that have changed my life.”

“Sitting next to you as a married man and a war veteran who can talk about his husband and kids would have been preposterous just 10 years ago,” he continued. “The question now for all of us living in America in these times is: Did we just live to see the high-water mark of rights and freedoms?”

Buttigieg also mentioned Abbott’s order this year for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate supportive families of transgender children for child abuse, threatening to remove children from non-abusive households and place them in foster care if their parents confirmed their transgender identities.

“You have a governor who, one minute, they’re talking about parents’ rights, and the next thing you know, they’re attacking parents, who, when confronted with the sometimes disorienting and even frightening situation of your child coming out to you, being in an incredibly vulnerable position trying to do the right thing for your kids, and a government official wants to come and investigate you for trying to take care of your kids?” Buttigieg said.

“They’re talking about banning books! They are banning books!” he said. A recent PEN America report found that Texas is the state that has banned the most books in the past year.

“So we have to decide whether we want to be the generations of Americans who lived to see the pinnacle of rights and freedoms in the United States of America, or whether we want to ensure that that expansion, that great American story of expanding rights and freedoms, continues on our watch.”

Cruz has spoken out against the Marriage Equality Act. In September, he stated that defending federal recognition of same-sex marriage would violate religious freedom by “weaponizing the Biden administration to go and target universities, K-12 schools, social service organizations, churches, and strip them all of their tax-exempt status.” It is unclear how the bill would result in those outcomes.

Cornyn opposes the Respect for Marriage Act as well. He said in a statement in July that marriage equality is “already the law of the land. I think it’s a contrived issue because the Supreme Court decided the issue, so I don’t see any reason for the Congress to act.”