A presidential hopeful’s homophobic past has come back to bite her.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii announced that she “has decided to run” for president in 2020 and “will make a formal announcement next week” during a Van Jones Show interview that aired Saturday on CNN.
"There are a lot of reasons for me to make this decision. There are a lot of challenges that are facing the American people that I'm concerned about and that I want to help solve," said Gabbard, an Iraq War veteran who currently serves on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. "There is one main issue that is central to the rest, and that is the issue of war and peace… I look forward to being able to get into this and to talk about it in depth when we make our announcement."
Gabbard joins previously announced candidates Sen. Kamala Harris of California and former Sec. of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro, among others, in seeking the Democratic nomination against presumed Republican incumbent Donald Trump. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, another big name in the race, announced the formation of an exploratory committee in late December.
But Gabbard’s past history of homophobic statements and actions might threaten her standing in the Democratic race. Though she supported Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that essentially legalized same-sex marriage in the United States, and opposed the Defense of Marriage Act as early as 2012, she was no friend to LGBTQ+ rights before she got to Congress. At times, she was downright hostile. As a state legislator in 2004, Gabbard argued against a bill that would have legalized same-sex civil unions in Hawaii.
“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,” said Gabbard, per The Huffington Post. “As Democrats, we should be representing the views of the people, not a small number of homosexual extremists.”
Before she was elected to Hawaii’s state legislature, she worked for her father’s anti-gay political action committee, the Alliance for Traditional Marriage, Splinter reports. The PAC opposed efforts to legalize same-sex unions and promoted conversion therapy, which Hawaii did not ban until 2018.
Gabbard addressed reports of past homophobia in a statement to CNN Sunday:
“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.”
Out was unable to reach Gabbard for comment before press time.