Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) is tackling what may be her first major roadblock to securing the Democratic nomination for president in 2020: her history of using homophobic rhetoric and crusading against same-sex marriage.
In a video published Thursday on YouTube, the Hawaii Democrat apologized for anti-LGBTQ comments she made over a decade ago that have come back to haunt her since she announced her bid for the 2020 presidential nomination.
“In my past, I said and believed things that were wrong, and worse, they were very hurtful to people in the LGBTQ+ community and their loved ones,” Gabbard said in the video.
She added: “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.”
The congresswoman went on to describe her childhood growing up “in a socially conservative household” in which her father, Hawaii state Sen. Mike Gabbard (D), taught her that marriage should be between a man and a woman.
Gabbard’s father was a prominent anti-LGBTQ activist who orchestrated a successful effort to pass a 1998 amendment that gave the Hawaii state legislature power to “reserve marriage to opposite-sex couples.”
Gabbard, who was 17 at the time, worked with her father to pass the amendment and cited the experience when she ran for the state legislature four years later. She won her race and became the youngest woman elected to Hawaii’s state legislature.
In February 2004, a 22-year-old Gabbard testified against a bill aimed at legalizing same-sex civil unions.
“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,” she said then. “As Democrats, we should be representing the views of the people, not a small number of homosexual extremists.”
She went on to use similar rhetoric in the ensuing years but changed her tune when she ran for U.S. Congress in 2012. Gabbard has since worked to protect LGBTQ rights, including by backing a 2017 bill targeting discrimination based on sexual orientation.
“I look forward to being able to share more of my story and experiences growing up — not as an excuse — but in the hopes that it may inspire others to truly live aloha; to love and care for others,” Gabbard said in the video.