Digging through a political opponent’s history for dirt has become an American tradition and 2020 Democratic presidential challenger Tulsi Gabbard became a new target when online sleuths found “homophobic” comments from her past.
Congresswoman Gabbard (D-Hawaii) announced her candidacy on Friday and has immediately faced opposition, not just from Republicans but from within her own party and its voters. Her opposition to military action in Syria prompted establishment figures on the right and left to label her an “Assad sympathizer” and a darling of 4chan, the alt-right (and even of RT).
Then, comments Gabbard made on gay marriage in 2004 were unearthed. 14 years ago, in her position as a Hawaii State Representative, Gabbard testified against a bill 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 at the time. “As Democrats, we should be representing the views of the people, not a small number of homosexual extremists.”
The term “homosexual extremists” was used again by Gabbard in a magazine interview later that year. Responding to questions about her father’s ties to the Hindu Hare Krishna movement, Gabbard accused critics of her father – a Republican city councilman in Honolulu running for Congress– of “acting as a conduit for The Honolulu Weekly and other homosexual extremist supporters of Ed Case,” her father’s opponent at the time.
Examined in 2019, the remarks didn’t sit well with the newer, more progressive Democratic party. As a female, the first Hindu member of Congress, a combat veteran and an early supporter of Bernie Sanders, Gabbard seems to tick all of the identity politics boxes a modern Democrat should. However, many progressives turned their noses up after hearing her 2004 take on same-sex unions.
Tulsi Gabbard didn’t apologize for her homophobia until she wanted our votes. She can FOITS.
— Chanda Prescod-Weinstein 🙅🏽♀️ 🇧🇧🌈 (@IBJIYONGI) January 14, 2019
Gabbard apologized on Sunday, telling the Huffington Post that she regretted “the positions I took in the past, and the things I said,” and touting her support for LGBT causes since then, including backing a bill prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation.
“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,” she pledged.
Do past anti-gay statements and positions permanently besmirch a person’s character, or does evolving and changing and repudiating those past positions absolve them of their sins? It’d be good if we had a consistent standard on this question.
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) January 14, 2019
The Democratic party has been pushed further left on social issues since 2004, as evidenced by the popularity of figures like progressive godfather Bernie Sanders and New York Congresswoman and social-media hotshot Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. While support for gay marriage is now a core tenet of the Democratic orthodoxy, things weren’t always this way, and Gabbard is far from the only Democrat to have reversed course on this topic.
Hillary Clinton announced her support for same-sex marriage in a 2013 video address, declaring“I support it personally, and as a matter of policy and law.” However, in 2004, Clinton was singing from the same hymn sheet as Gabbard. “I believe that marriage is not just a bond but a sacred bond between a man and a woman,” she said, in a speech on the Senate floor.
While Barack Obama declared the Supreme Court’s 2015 recognition of same-sex marriage a “victory for America,” the former President told MTV days before the election in 2008: “I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. I am not in favor of gay marriage.”
Gabbard has not been vocal on ‘culture war’ issues of identity and social justice, instead focusing on foreign policy, climate change, affordable housing, and criminal justice reform. America’s foreign policy, however, is her key focus.
“There is one main issue that is central to the rest, and that is the issue of war and peace,” she told CNN’s Van Jones on Saturday. Herself an Iraq war vet, Gabbard has consistently opposed Washington DC’s bipartisan consensus on foreign wars and intervention, opposing Barack Obama’s intervention in Syria, calling for an end to the war in Afghanistan “as soon as possible,” and sponsoring legislation to end arms sales to Saudi Arabia, and to defund the National Security Agency.
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