Pence: Buttigieg attacking my faith to stand out in 2020 crowd

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By Adam Edelman  with NBC News Politics
Image: Vice President Mike Pence listens during a meeting at the White Hous
Vice President Mike Pence listens during a meeting at the White House on April 2, 2019.   -   Copyright  Susan Walsh AP file

Vice President Mike Pence responded Thursday to criticism from upstart presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg, saying that the South Bend, Ind., mayor is attacking him to stand out among a crowded Democratic primary field.

"Well, look, I worked very closely with Mayor Pete when I was governor of the state of Indiana," Pence said in an interview on CNBC's "Squawk Box." "We had a great working relationship, and he said some things that are critical of my Christian faith and about me personally, and he knows better, he knows me."

"I get it, you know, it's like, you have 19 people running for president on that side, and part of it is sliding off to the left," he added. "They're all competing with one another for how much more liberal they can be. I get that."

Pence was responding to questions about criticism from Buttigieg — who is openly gay — about the vice president's views on gay marriage and LGBTQ equality.

Pence, however, was also asked in the CNBC interview about the monumental Supreme Court decision in 2015 that legalized gay marriage nationwide and whether he had "accepted it's law."

The vice president replied that he "fully implemented that decision in the law" as governor, "but … I have my Christian values."

"My family and I have a view of marriage that's informed by our faith, and we stand by that," he said. "But that doesn't mean that we're critical of anyone else who has a different point of view. One of the great things about this country is our freedom of religion and the freedom of conscience, and we'll continue to cherish our values, cherish our views."

Pence has opposed gay rights policies such as legalizing same-sex marriage and in 2015, as Indiana governor, signed the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which critics have said gives businesses the right to refuse service to gay people.

Buttigieg who served South Bend's mayor — and came out publicly — while Pence was governor, has repeatedly criticized his fellow Hoosier in recent weeks as attention on his long-shot presidential bid has escalated.

In a speech before an audience of LGBTQ rights supporters on Sunday, Buttigieg said, "If being gay was a choice, it was a choice that was made far, far above my pay grade."

"And that's the thing I wish the Mike Pences of the world would understand. That if you have a problem with who I am, your quarrel is not with me. Your quarrel, sir, is with my creator," Buttigieg said.

He added that his marriage to his husband "has made me a better man, and yes, Mr. Vice President, it has moved me closer to God."

Buttigieg reprised his critique on Monday.

"Just because you are LGBTQ doesn't mean it's OK to discriminate against you," he told reporters in Las Vegas. "I think most people get that, I think most Christians get that, and it's time for us to move on toward a more inclusive and more humane vision of faith than what this vice president represents."