Pete Buttigieg
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The hopefuls in attendance included Beto O’Rourke, Kirsten Gillibrand, Bernie Sanders, and Pete Buttigieg, who hopes to become the first-ever openly gay president

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June 10, 2019 12:24 PM

As LGBTQ rights continue to play an important role in national politics, many Democratic presidential candidates traveled to Iowa this weekend, attending the Capital City Pride Festival celebrations.

The presidential hopefuls in attendance included Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who hopes to become the first-ever openly gay president, Beto O’Rourke, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, and former Maryland Rep. John Delaney, who announced on Friday that in honor of Vice President Mike Pence’s birthday, he had made a donation in support of gay marriage in the conservative’s name.

Addressing the crowds in Des Moines on Saturday, Buttigieg — who served as the featured speaker — praised Iowa, which overturned a ban on gay marriage 10 years ago, becoming only the third state in the country to allow same-sax marriages.

“Iowa helped lead the way on that, showing the phenomenon of equality was not urban. It was not coastal. It was not liberal. It was human. It was American. It was the right thing to do,” he shared, according to the Des Moines Register.

Speaking to CNN, Buttigieg shared that he thought “one of the reasons why you have so many Democratic candidates joining Pride is not just to recognize how far we’ve come but recognizing that this work is not done.”

The previous evening, Buttigieg also attended the Matthew Shepard Scholarship Awards Dinner, held in honor of the 21-year-old gay Wyoming college student whose 1998 murder made him a symbol of violence against LGBTQ people.

Speaking at the event, Buttigieg, who came out in 2015, shared that he was 16 when he learned the “terrible news” of Shepard’s death, CNN reported.

“The effect was that I immediately understood that hate was deadly,” he said. “I suppose that means that I understood that I lived in a country where you could lose your life for being gay before I understood that I was gay. And maybe that has got something to do with why it took me a little longer.”

The politician went on to share a photo from the night on social media, writing that “it was an honor” to help lift “up the next generation of LGBTQ leaders.”

RELATED: Pete Buttigieg Announces 2020 Campaign, Hopes to Make History as First-Ever Openly Gay President

In addition to attending the Capital City Pride festival on Sunday, Gillibrand also made a more casual stop on Friday, spending time at a popular gay bar in Des Moines called The Blazing Saddle.

“Anyone want a drink?” Gillibrand, who was wearing a rainbow “Love Is Brave” shirt, told patrons of the establishment, before stepping behind the bar to help serve drinks, according to CNN.

While there, the New York Senator also got a chance to speak about some of her policies, which include passing the Equality Act, which would provide federal protections against LGBTQ discrimination.

Kirsten Gillibrand
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Beto O'Rourke
Scott Olson/Getty
Bernie Sanders

Sanders, a longtime supporter of gay rights, also addressed the crowd at the Capital City Pride festival on Saturday.

“Brothers and sisters, we are in this struggle together,” he remarked, according to the Des Moines Reigister, prompting the crowd to cheer. “Whether we are black or white or Latino. Whether we are Native American, whether we are Asian American. Whether we are gay or straight. Whether we are native-born or immigrant. Whether we are male or female. At this moment in American history, we stand together, and we fight for justice for all.”

In addition to participating in the Capital City Pride 5K race, O’Rourke — who wore a rainbow-colored sweatband around his wrist — also took the stage.

RELATED VIDEO: Raymond Braun Shares LGBTQ Stories From Across the Country in Documentary ‘State of Pride’

Ahead of the pride celebrations in Iowa this weekend, the Human Rights Campaign issued a statement, praising the candidates for their strong support.

“We couldn’t be more happy to see the most pro-equality group of potential presidential nominees in U.S. history,” national press secretary for campaigns, Lucas Acosta told ABC News. “Presidential candidates are actively courting the 10 million LGBTQ voters nationwide, speaking to our issues and directly to our community. Candidates know that LGBTQ voters and our allies are among the most highly active and engaged voting blocs in the nation, consistently outperforming our presence in the electorate. In great part, this nomination runs through the LGBTQ community.”

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