Rep. Tulsi Gabbard worked for her father’s anti-gay organization, which conversion therapy.
Gabbard, a Democrat from Hawaii, said in an interview with CNN’s Van Jones that she will seek her party’s nomination for president in 2020. Since her announcement, her past views and activism in opposition to LGBTQ rights twenty years ago that put her out of touch with most of the Democratic Party at the time, have come under intense scrutiny.
Gabbard’s positions on LGBTQ rights have shifted dramatically in recent years but the extent of her past anti-gay activism has already drawn criticism from prominent Democrats. As she seeks the party’s nomination, this will likely be a major issue for her.
In a statement to CNN, Gabbard said,
“First, let me say I regret the positions I took in the past, and the things I said. 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. 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.“
Gabbard’s past positions can be traced back to the early 2000s, when she first sought public office.
During her run for state legislature in 2002, Gabbard told the Honolulu Star-Bulletin,
“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.“
Gabbard’s father ran The Alliance for Traditional Marriage, a political action committee aimed at opposing pro-gay lawmakers and legislation that organized and spent more than $100,000 to pass an amendment in 1998 that gave the Hawaii state legislature power to
“reserve marriage to opposite-sex couples.“
The amendment to the state’s constitution passed.
Gabbard’s father Mike was a well-known anti-gay activist in Hawaii. He was also the director of Stop Promoting Homosexuality and also served on the steering committees of the National Campaign to Protect Marriage and the Hawaii-based coalition, Save Traditional Marriage. He also once hosted an anti-gay radio show, Let’s Talk Straight Hawaii.
The Alliance for Traditional Marriage< called homosexuality
“unhealthy, abnormal behavior that should not be promoted or accepted in society.“
Tulsi Gabbard herself is quoted in a 2000 press release from The Alliance for Traditional Marriage. In it, she attacks gay rights activists who were opposed to her mother Carol’s bid 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.“
Gabbard’s anti-gay efforts continued after she became a state representative.
Shortly after Gabbard announced her presidential ambitions Friday, her testimony at a hearing opposing a civil unions bill in 2004 resurfaced.
“To try to act as if there is a difference between ‘civil unions’ and same-sex marriage is dishonest, cowardly and extremely disrespectful to the people of Hawaii. As Democrats we should be representing the views of the people, not a small number of homosexual extremists.“
In 2012, when running for Congress, Gabbard apologized to LGBT activists in Hawaii for her past comments.
“I want to apologize 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.“
Since joining Congress in 2013, Gabbard has supported efforts to promote LGBT equality, including co-sponsoring pro-LGBT legislation like The Equality Act, a bill to amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to protect LGBT individuals.
“I grew up in a very kind of conservative household. A multi-ethnic, multi-racial, multi-faith home. Diverse in our makeup and diverse in our views. And I held views growing up that I no longer hold.
That caused me to really deeply reflect and be introspective on the values and beliefs that I had grown up with what I was experiencing there. And then coming back and eventually running for office again. And the conflict that I saw there, in standing for, believing strongly in, and fighting for these ideals of freedom and liberty that we hold dear in this country. It means that equality, that our laws, our government must apply that respect for every single individual. For people who choose to love or marry someone — whether they be of the same gender or not, that respect, and that freedom for every woman to be able to make her own choice about her body and her family and her future. So it was a process that I went through that changed my views in many ways and in many big ways to the views that I hold today.“
(Photo, YouTube; via CNN)