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Recently, Matty Easton, a political science major at Brigham Young University, came out of the closet during his graduation speech.
BYU is owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, informally known as Mormons, and has a strict honor code that has resulted in the punishment of LGBTQ students.
Historically, the church has forbid same-sex marriage and those who practice homosexual activity are denied access to the temple.
“It was in these quiet moments of pain and confusion that I felt another triumph, that of coming to terms, not with who I thought I should be, but who the Lord has made me,” Easton told fellow graduates. “As such, I stand before my family, friends and graduating class today to say that I am proud to be a gay son of God.”
His admission was greeted by loud applause.
“Four years ago it would have been impossible for me to imagine that I would come out to my entire college,” he added. “It is a phenomenal feeling and it is a victory for me in and of itself.”
Easton was praised by Democratic presidential hopeful and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
“I know that kid is going to make it easier for somebody else,” Buttigieg, who is gay, told BuzzFeed News. “Imagine if you’re a terrified closeted kid in that audience at BYU and what it does for you to have that student lead that way.”
“I don’t think someone in [Easton’s] position is looking to be celebrated; I think the reason this is so hard for them is they’re looking to be accepted,” Buttigieg continued.
Buttigieg has a good idea about what Easton is going through. The Afghanistan War veteran put his political career on the line back in 2015 when he came out of the closet while running for reelection as mayor.
Buttigieg won with over 80% of the vote.
“I only had the room to do [this] because people before me had to assert, sometimes militantly, that they shouldn’t be suppressed. Otherwise there’s no oxygen for somebody like me to do something like this and possibly help someone like that,” he said. “All of this is part of a bigger arc.”
According to Real Clear Politics, Buttigieg is running in fifth nationally with the support of 6.6% of Democratic primary voters. Joe Biden currently leads with 37.6%, more than double that of second-place Bernie Sanders.