Last week, Tulsi Gabbard, a Democratic U.S. Representative from Hawaii, announced her campaign for president. Almost immediately after her announcement, LGBTQ activists and many members of the Democratic party began to question Gabbard’s anti-gay history.
Before being elected to Congress, Gabbard worked for her father’s anti-gay marriage group, The Alliance for Traditional Marriage. That organization helped to pass an amendment to Hawaii’s state constitution that defined marriage as between one man and one woman. The Alliance for Traditional Marriage also promoted conversion therapy, a now-debunked practice of attempting to turn people straight or cisgender through counseling. Gabbard herself called gay people “homosexual activists” and “homosexual extremists” during her time working with the group.
Now Gabbard has released an apology for her previous anti-LGBTQ comments and actions.
“In my past, I said and believed things that were wrong, and worse, they were very hurtful to the people in the LGBTQ community and to their loved ones,” Gabbard said. “I’m deeply sorry for having said them. My views have changed significantly since then, and my record in Congress over the last six years reflects what is in my heart: A strong and ongoing commitment to fighting for LGBTQ+ rights.”
In a Twitter post accompanying her video apology, Gabbard wrote, “I know that LGBTQ people still struggle. They’re still facing discrimination, still facing abuse and still fear that hard-won rights are going to be taken away by people who hold views like I used to. That cannot happen.”
Gabbard has also been supportive of LGBTQ rights during her time in the House of Representatives and has repeatedly voted in favor of protecting gay rights. She is also a member of the House LGBT Equality Caucus, which takes up issues of concern to queer Americans, and has a voting score of 100 from the Human Rights Campaign on gay issues. Despite her record in Congress, questions will continue to swirl as to Gabbard’s ability to adequately represent LGBTQ Americans.