Democrats seeking the party's presidential nomination have descended on Gay Pride festivities in Des Moines, Iowa, seeming eager to burnish their pro-LGBT bona fides.
On Saturday, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand served drinks at a gay bar and toured the city with a drag queen, former U.S. Representative Beto O'Rourke participated in a morning 5K Pride run, and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg delivered a fiery speech.
A half-dozen other Democratic candidates spoke at a presidential forum, including U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, who said he supported gay rights 'before it was popular.'
The swarm comes ahead of a key party dinner in Cedar Rapids on Sunday, where 19 of the candidates are expected to speak.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, who remains the front runner in Iowa in a new poll released Saturday night, is maintaining a low profile and will not begin campaigning in Iowa until Tuesday.
Democratic presidential candidate and New York senator Kirsten Gillibrand (right) tours the Capital City Pride Fest with drag queen Vana Rosenberg on Saturday in Des Moines
Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke, center, and his wife Amy talk with a fellow competitor after running the Capital City Pride Fest Fun Run 5K on Saturday
Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders greets people during a campaign stop at the Capital City Pride Fest on Saturday in Des Moines, Iowa
Democratic presidential candidate and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks during a campaign stop at the Capital City Pride Fest on Saturday
At his event Saturday, Buttigieg, running to become the first openly gay U.S. president, told activists there was 'no going back to normal' in fighting discrimination against the LGBTQ community.
Speaking at a rally on the steps outside the Iowa state capitol, Buttigeig said rights for the community were still under threat from Republican President Donald Trump, and he warned against complacency.
'Don't listen to anybody in either party who says we can just go back to what we were doing,' Buttigieg told a crowd celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Iowa Supreme Court's decision to overturn a ban on same-sex marriages.
'We know that the struggle is not over, not even close. At a time like today when you can still be legally fired in so many parts of this country because of who you are or who you love, we have work to do,' he said.
Buttigeig also spoke at a dinner honoring Wyoming college student Matthew Shepard, who was beaten to death in 1998 for being gay.
Gillibrand (right) tours the Capital City Pride Fest with drag queen Vana Rosenberg (center) and Kyla Paterson on Saturday in Des Moines, Iowa
Gillibrand (left) speaks with an attendee at a Pride event at the Blazing Saddle on Friday
Gillibrand shops for a hat during a campaign stop at the Capital City Pride Fest on Saturday
Meanwhile, at a Meet the Candidates event during Pride Weekend, the 77-year-old Sanders distanced himself from the perception that many old, white men are anti-gay rights.
'Now, I have to tell you that this issue of gay rights isn't something new to me. Way back, before it was politically popular back in 1983, as the Mayor of the City of Burlington, Vermont, I supported our first gay pride parade,' Sanders said in front of the gold-domed Iowa State Capitol building.
'And that was before it was popular.'
He also talked to the crowd waving rainbow flags and wearing shirts advocating for gay equality about how he used some of his more progressive policies to help the gay community.
'And we passed landmark housing ordinance that protected people from being discriminated against based on their sexual orientation,' he added to a cheering crowd that braved the 85 degree heat.
The self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist touted himself as having one of the most gay-friendly records of all the candidates running in the 2020 Democratic primary.
Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders said Saturday he supported gay rights before it was 'politically popular'
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, center, greets a local resident during the Capital City Pride fest, Saturday in Des Moines, Iowa
While speaking to a crowd of about 300 in Des Moines, Iowa, he said he supported the first gay pride parade in Vermont in 1983. He also touted the state he represents as