Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, the Democratic Congresswoman from Hawaii who announced last week that she’s running for president in 2020, is running on a history of political views that are somewhat esoteric for an elected Democrat. CNN discovered over the weekend that the candidate once held a position on LGBT rights that is far from the party’s current mainstream.
According to the CNN report, Gabbard, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, did work for the Alliance for Traditional Marriage, an organization led by her father which opposed same-sex marriage as well as a civil unions bill that was under consideration in Hawaii at the time. She also touted her work for the group in a 2002 interview with a newspaper in that state.
“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 told the Honolulu Star-Bulletin in 2002.
Gabbard’s support for LGBT rights has been consistent since she arrived in Congress, and she issued a statement expressing that view to CNN.
“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.”
Hawaii ultimately passed a bill in 2013 that made same-sex marriage legal in the state. Gabbard, when running for Congress in 2012, apologized to the LGBT community in Hawaii for her past comments.
Many top Democrats opposed same-sex marriage in the early years of the debate over the issue; President Barack Obama did not officially declare his support for legalization of such marriages until the spring of 2012. However, even most Democrats who hadn’t taken that position never backed amendments to ban same-sex marriage.
Gabbard, a military veteran who supported Sen. Bernie Sanders in the 2016 presidential race, has also been criticized for her decision to visit Syria in January 2017 and meet with that country’s president, Bashar al-Assad, who has been accused of horrific human rights abuses.