Pete Buttigieg campaigned to be re-elected mayor of South Bend, Indiana, when he was released as a gay in 2015 – a first for his state, which was then ruled by Mike Pence, a self-described religious conservative.
At that time, Pence, who has a history of anti-LGBTQ positions, spoke warmly of Buttigieg after his announcement about his sexuality. This despite the fact that Buttigieg had criticized Pence's support for a controversial religious freedom law that some groups would provide legal cover for discrimination.
"I hold Mayor Buttigieg with the utmost respect," Pence, 59, told the WSBT local station in June 2015.
"We have an excellent working relationship," said Buttigieg, 37, who entered politics after serving in the Navy. "I see him as a dedicated public employee and patriot."
Pence's team is following those compliments this week in the wake of Buttigieg's new comments – now gay unanimity candidates for president who could make history if he ousted Vice President Pence and President Donald Trump from the White House.
"If I were gay it was a choice, it was a choice that was made very, far above my vote," said Buttigieg on Sunday speaking at the LGBTQ Victory Fund National Champagne Brunch, appealing directly to the same religious beliefs that Pence said he supported his social conservative.
"This is the thing I wish Mike Pences of the world could understand," continued Buttigieg: "That if you have a problem with who I am, your problem is not with me – your argument, sir, is with my creator. "
RELATED: Meet the 2020 presidential candidates – so far!
On Tuesday morning, Pence's spokeswoman Alyssa Farah tweeted a link to the aforementioned article in the WSBT. Pence's wife, the second Lady Karen Pence, also spoke about her remarks at a radio interview Tuesday.
"They always had a great relationship," he said, according to CNN. "It's funny because I don't think the vice president has a problem with him, but I think he's helping Pete get some notoriety by saying this about the vice president."
Referring specifically to Pence's positive reaction to Buttigieg's coming, Ms. Pence, 62, said, "I'm kind of like Pete, didn't you like him? Because that's what the vice president said about him. So what's the problem? "
(Ms. Pence has been involved in a controversy of her own over the past few months, after she returned to teaching art in a conservative Christian school that explicitly discriminates against gay and transgender people.)
Reached by PEOPLE, Pence's spokesperson referred to her Tuesday tweet.
Buttigieg has referred to it obliquely in his tweet on Tuesday, writing, "People will often be educated with you in person, while advancing policies that harm you and your family. You will be educated with them in turn, but you must not bear such damage. Instead, you reject it, honestly and emphatically. public square. "
While he was an Indiana MP, Pence allegedly supported a constitutional ban on gay marriages, voted against the repeal of the ban on openly demonstrating to gay soldiers and voted against the prohibition of LGBTQ workplace discrimination. He was widely attacked for making a statement on his campaign website in 2000, which he proposed to support gay conversion therapy, which his team categorically denied.
RELATED: Cynthia Nixon calls Joe Biden for the compliment of "Decent Guy" Mike Pence
On Sunday, Buttigieg talked emotionally about his journey to the acceptance of his sexuality.
"If you had offered me a straight pill, I would have swallowed it before you could have time to take a sip of water. It's a difficult thing to think about right now. It's hard to face the truth that there were moments in my life where, if you had shown me exactly what was inside me that made me gay, I would have cut it with a knife ".
What a loss it would have been for him, he said.
"If I had had the chance to do it, I would never have found my way to Chasten," he said referring to her husband Chasten Buttigieg, whom he married in June
"Thank God there was no pill," he said Sunday. "Thank god it wasn't a knife."