Appearing at CNN's Democratic
Presidential Town Hall at South By Southwest, Democratic presidential
candidate Tulsi Gabbard was asked about her views on LGBT rights.
Hawaii Representative Gabbard actively
opposed LGBT rights in the late 90s and early 2000s.
When she first sought public office in
Hawaii, Gabbard was opposed to same-sex marriage and touted working
with her father, Mike Gabbard, a leading anti-LGBT activist in
Hawaii. As a state lawmaker, she opposed a 2004 bill that sought to
recognize gay and lesbian couples with civil unions.
Gabbard has previously said that she
has “evolved” on LGBT rights. In Congress, Gabbard has been a
strong supporter of such rights, earning a perfect score on the Human
Rights Campaign's (HRC) latest Congressional Scorecard, a measure of
a lawmaker's support for such rights. She has also apologized for
her past views, most recently in a YouTube video in January.
At Sunday's town hall, Gabbard said
that her time deployed in the Middle East caused her to “go through
some soul searching.”
“I was raised in a very socially
conservative home. My father is Catholic. He was a leading voice
against gay marriage in Hawaii at the time. Again, I was very young,
but these are the values and beliefs that I grew up around,” she
While serving in the military, Gabbard
“saw first-hand the negative impact of a government attempting to
act as a moral arbiter for their people, dictating in the most
personal ways how they must live their lives.”
"I also served with gay and
lesbian and trans service members, and we became very good friends,
and knew in the most deep and visceral way that I would give my life
for any one of them. And I knew that they would do the same for me.”
“[R]ace or religion or orientation,”
Gabbard said, “were things that didn't matter, because we were
focused on our mission of serving."
Gabbard also denied she ever supported
conversion therapy, which attempts to alter the sexual orientation or
gender identity of people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or