Following on from last week’s “Game of Gay Thrones: 5” and the recent US Presidential inauguration I thought I’d take a look at a different lgbt claimant, someone in the line of succession to the US Presidency (you probably didn’t know there was one, I didn’t know there were so many offices that were included until recently). I know it’s a bit early to be thinking about losing Joe Biden as President, but every holder of that office has a string of office holders who would occupy the “White House throne” should the President stop being the incumbent for one reason or another (resignation, death, removal, or incapacity, etc.). In the extremely unlikely event that most of the office holders in line are also removed from consideration (dying in a hypothetical mass accident, for example) the current line of succession extends to 18 places. Technically, though, holders of these offices may not eligible for the Presidency, such as those not born in the USA.
The reason I’m looking at this today is because, for the first time in the modern era there’s an openly lgbt person who is likely to be approved as the holder of one of the offices on the official US Presidential line of succession.
The US Senate has to approve all Biden’s appointments, of course, but at the moment the people named in the video below are the ones who would officially constitute the first of Joe Biden’s presidential line of succession. At number 14 on that list is Pete Buttigieg (b.1982), who became the first openly gay Democratic Party candidate for presidential nomination in 2019. I wrote about his family history here.
When Pete Buttigieg began running for the Democratic nomination there were many critics who said he was too young, too liberal and too gay. Pete replied that there had been Presidents who had been equally young, equally liberal for their time, and “we’ve probably had excellent presidents who were gay”, as he said in an interview. This got a lot of people scrambling to Google to see which former presidents he may have been referring to. There are two in particular who get mentions when looking for gay presidents, James Buchanan and Abraham Lincoln. I wrote about both of them several years ago in this article.
The most recent full study of James Buchanan’s relationship with William Rufus King was published in 2019. It is called “Bosom Friends: The Intimate World of James Buchanan and William Rufus King”. It goes into detail about their relationship, their surviving correspondence and the prevailing attitudes towards male friendship that we would not recognise today. Part of that attitude was the acceptance of two men, even married men, sleeping together and occasionally having sex. At that time period, the19th century, our modern understanding and definition of homosexual did not exist, and any man who had sex with another man would never consider himself gay if he could travel into the future and visit us today. Such famous “gay” men as Oscar Wilde would never have called themselves gay.
If we return to the main purpose of today’s article, would there have been someone in the past we could regard as being an openly man-loving US politician who would be in the line of succession to a historical President? The answer to that is, probably. The most likely candidate is the above mentioned William Rufus DeVane King (1786-1853). He was President of the Senate pro tempore twice, from 1836 to 1841, and 1850 to 1852. In 1853, the year of his death, he was appointed Vice President.
The first Presidential succession act was made in 1792 and only included four offices in line of succession. These were: 1) President of the USA; 2) Vice President of the USA; 3) President of the Senate pro tempore; 4) Speaker of the House of Representatives (the current order switches 3 and 4). Subsequent Acts and modifications, the last being in 2006, have extended the line.
It is very unlikely that Pete Buttigieg will ever reach the presidency from his current nominated position, but who knows, perhaps he’ll rise in office and get a bit closer. What is really cool is that when he is approved as Secretary of Transportation he’ll have his very own flag (below).