Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has declared she will run for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020, but past anti-LGBTQ comments are coming back to haunt her nascent run.
Before running for office, Gabbard worked for her father’s anti-gay marriage PAC, The Alliance for Traditional Marriage, that worked to pass an amendment to the state’s constitution that defined marriage as between a man and a woman. The group also promoted so-called “conversion therapy,” claiming the debunked practice could change a person’s sexual orientation, even going so far as to claim “there is no such thing as a homosexual or ’gay.'”
Her father, Mike Gabbard (pictured above, at far left), ran successfully in 2002 for a seat on the Hawaii City Council. He has served in the Hawaii Senate since 2006, first as a Republican and now as a Democrat, making the change in 2007. He said he switched his party affiliation to better serve his constituents as a member of the party with majority control, which created some controversy.
Gabbard cited her work for The Alliance for Traditional Marriage when she ran for a seat in Hawaii’s House of Representatives in 2002. Her win made her the youngest woman elected to the Hawaii state legislature.
“Working with my father, Mike Gabbard, and others to pass a constitutional amendment to protect traditional marriage, I learned that real leaders are willing to make personal sacrifices for the common good. I will bring that attitude of public service to the legislature,” she told the Honolulu Star-Bulletin at the time.
She is also quoted in a press release in support of her mother, Carol Gabbard, who was being opposed by LGBTQ advocates in her run for the state’s board of education.
“This war of deception and hatred against my mom is being waged by homosexual activists because they know, that if elected, she will not allow them to force their values down the throats of the children in our schools,” she said.
In 2004, as a state representative, Tulsi Gabbard provided testimony at a hearing opposing a civil unions bill, arguing that claiming a difference between civil unions and same-sex marriage was “dishonest, cowardly and extremely disrespectful to the people of Hawaii.”
Gabbard has represented Hawaii’s 2nd congressional district since 2013, and has been a supporter of LGBTQ rights during that time, backing marriage equality , and the Equality Act, which would prohibit discrimination in areas like housing, employment, and public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
She apologized in 2012, while running for Congress, for “statements that I have made in the past that have been very divisive and even disrespectful to those within the LGBT community.”
“I know that those comments have been hurtful and I sincerely offer my apology to you and hope that you will accept it,” she added.
Last month, Gabbard explained her changed view by noting she was raised in a conservative household, and citing her experiences while deployed in Iraq and Kuwait as a member of the Hawaii National Guard.
She said she saw “the destructive effect of having governments who act as moral arbiters for their people,” causing her to reevaluate and determine that “our laws, our government must apply that respect for every single individual.”
In a 2017 profile in The New Yorker, she is quoted first as saying she doesn’t feel the “government should make sure that everybody else’s life styles match my own,” in a lukewarm endorsement of equality, to, months later, telling the reporter, Kelefa Sanneh, that “gay marriage should be celebrated.”
“Perhaps her views are still evolving,” Sanneh concludes.
“First, let me say I regret the positions I took in the past, and the things I said,” Gabbard told CNN, following a report on her anti-LGBTQ past published following her 2020 presidential bid announcement. “I’m grateful for those in the LGBTQ+ community who have shared their aloha with me throughout my personal journey.”
“Over the past six years in Congress, I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to help work toward passing legislation that ensures equal rights and protections on LGBTQ+ issues, such as the Equality Act, the repeal of DOMA, Restore Honor to Service members Act, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, the Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Equality for All Resolution,” she continued. “Much work remains to ensure equality and civil rights protections for LGBTQ+ Americans and if elected President, I will continue to fight for equal rights for all.”