Democrat Tulsi Gabbard used to campaign against gay marriage

US Representative Tulsi Gabbard speaks during Day 2 of the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.

Hawaii Democrat Tulsi Gabbard has thrown her hat in the ring for a 2020 presidential run, but her past activism against LGBT+ rights and gay marriage has caught up with her.

Gabbard, a 37-year-old Iraq War veteran, announced her presidential bid in the 2020 election on Friday (January 11) in an interview to CNN. 

But the network was quick to uncover her past conservative positions on gay marriage, leading the congresswoman to issue an apology.

Tulsi Gabbard’s past remarks on gay marriage resurface

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Gabbard supported her father Mike Gabbard’s political action committee, The Alliance for Traditional Marriage.

As the name suggests, the group campaigned against pro-LGBT lawmakers and initiatives. CNN reported that in 1998, the Alliance for Traditional Marriage spent more than $100,000 in support of an amendment that gave the Hawaii legislature power to “reserve marriage to opposite-sex couples.”

“As Democrats we should be representing the views of the people, not a small number of homosexual extremists.”

— Tulsi Gabbard (2004)

Gabbard was 17 at the time, but she recalled campaigning for the amendment in a 2002 interview to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin during her run for state legislature—which she won, becoming, at 21, the youngest woman ever 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,” the quote she gave the local newspaper and unearthed by CNN read.

US Senator Bernie Sanders, (I-VT), waits alongside US Representative Tulsi Gabbard (L), Democrat of Hawaii, to speak during a rally to stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Tulsi Gabbard strongly supported Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton for the Democrat presidential nomination. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty)

Gabbard held views against gay marriage as late as 2004, when the Hawaii state legislature was debating the introduction of civil unions for same-sex couples.

“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,” Gabbard was quoted as saying during a debate on the issue, quoted in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin at the time. “As Democrats we should be representing the views of the people, not a small number of homosexual extremists.”

Who is Tulsi Gabbard?

Hawaii representative Tulsi Gabbard became the first Hindu and first Samoan-American elected to Congress in 2012. During her election campaign, she formally apologised to LGBT+ activists for her past positions and remarks.

“I want to apologise for statements that I have made in the past that have been very divisive and even disrespectful to those within the LGBT community,” Gabbard said, quoted by CNN. “I know that those comments have been hurtful and I sincerely offer my apology to you and hope that you will accept it.”

“Much work remains to ensure equality and civil rights protections for LGBTQ+ Americans.”

— Tulsi Gabbard (2019)

In a 2017 profile published in The New Yorker, Gabbard attributed her experience in Iraq and Kuwait as having informed her more socially progressive views—she even supported Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton as the 2016 Democratic nominee.

“Experiencing as a woman, firsthand, the impacts of countries that are acting as moral arbiters for their people—it really caused me to rethink the positions I held,” she said.

Tulsi Gabbard apologises for homophobic remarks

In a statement provided to CNN on Sunday (January 13), the congresswoman and presidential hopeful insisted her position had changed, listing instances of support for LGBT+ issues as evidence of her reformed views.

“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,” Gabbard said in her statement.

She continued, “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.”