You've probably heard of Pete Buttigieg, the young gay mayor running to be the Democratic nominee to challenge President Trump in 2020. But the town of South Bend, Indiana, may soon have another gay politico rising star in the form of Alex Giorgio-Rubin, a dad to a 12-year-old son.
Alex is running for a seat on South Bend's Common Council, in part, he says, to help make all families – including ones like his own – feel welcome.
As an out, married, gay dad, living in a Jewish household, raising a son who is on the Autism spectrum, Alex feels he can offer a unique perspective. "We come from the state that produced Mike Pence," said Alex. "We come from the state that made national headlines because of a bill that would allow businesses to discriminate based on sexual orientation; it's fair to say that the cards are stacked against my family, and many, many other families like mine."
Alex, who is currently a stay-at-home dad raising his adopted son, 12-year-old Joseph, is married to Joshua Giorgio-Rubin, a Senior English Lecturer at the Indiana University of South Bend. The two have been together for six years.
"I knew my son, who is technically my husband's biological nephew, as an infant," said Alex. "I used to work with Joshua's sister at Starbucks, and when Joseph was a baby, she and I would take him for walks around the mall in his stroller. When I started dating Joshua, I couldn't believe he had a kid I had known since he was a baby. It was meant to be. I fell in love with them both, and we knew right away we were meant to be a family."
So how did Joseph end up with his dads? When Joshua's sister and brother-in-law separated, Joseph went to live with his biological dad. "But because Joseph is on the lower functioning end of the autism spectrum, he requires a lot of care, and Joseph's biological father was having a very difficult time balancing Joseph's care and college," explained Alex. Joseph ended up spending a lot of his time with his mother but due to her multiple sclerosis, she was having an increasingly difficult time caring for her son. Joshua intervened. He asked his sister and brother-in-law to sign over guardianship, which they did voluntarily, and Joshua put Joseph on his medical insurance, got him the therapy he needed, and enrolled him in preschool.
Joshua and Alex began dating 2012. "By the time we were married in 2013, Joshua and I knew we wanted to adopt Joseph," said Alex. "We decided it would be an appropriate thing to pursue once Joseph had spent more than half his life not living with his biological parents." So they waited a couple more years, then in 2016, they hired a lawyer and asked Joshua's sister and now ex-brother-in-law for permission to adopt him. Joshua's sister consented right away, but Joseph's biological father took a bit longer to come around. "He's a genuinely good person who was carrying around a lot of guilt surrounding his inability to meet Joseph's needs," explained Alex. "Eventually, though, Joseph's biological father gave his permission because he knew it was the right thing to do. We have a lot of respect for him for that."
On January 12, 2017, the adoption was finalized. Just eight days before Trump was sworn in as the 45th president. These two factors in Alex's life were what cemented his reasons for running.
"I'm running for office because the most recent presidential election had a profound effect on me," explained Alex. As I watched the results come in, I thought it must be a mistake. I kept telling myself they will fix it. They will make sure this country is not helmed by the sort of president we currently have. When that didn't happen, it suddenly hit me that I am they, and I have a responsibility to build the kind of country that respects and nurtures all its citizens."
Alex talks warmly of Presidential hopeful, Pete Buttigieg, once the youngest mayor in America who came out as gay while running for his second term. "Pete Buttigieg has done many wonderful things for South Bend," said Alex. "He has consistently been a committed, engaged, and innovative mayor—and he just happens to be gay."
And what does Alex hope to achieve? In his own words:
"If I am honored to make it past the primary election on May 7, and be elected on November 5, I hope to build on the renaissance South Bend has experienced under Mayor Pete's administration. An awful lot has been accomplished, but there is an awful lot yet to be done. We need to continue to focus on infrastructure, and make sure minority contractors have equity in the bidding process. We need to make sure the economic development the downtown area has enjoyed is extended to all of South Bend's neighborhoods. We need to work on building relationships of mutual respect between citizens and law enforcement. We need to give young people opportunities to spend their free time engaged in activities that build a positive sense of self. We need to nurture a rich social infrastructure by making sure all of South Bend's citizens have access to libraries, parks, community centers, and the arts. We need to go into South Bend's less affluent neighborhoods and make sure lead paint no longer poses health risks to the children who live there. We need to make sure all our citizens are not only able to live, but live well, with a sense of joy and pride in themselves and their neighbors."