U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard denied that her commitment to LGBTQ Americans was "only skin deep" at The Advocate's LGBTQ Presidential Forum.
The member of Congress from Hawaii responded to a question from an audience member Friday that used this phrase to sum up skepticism of her views and her status as an ally. "Some have said your equality is only skin-deep since it amounts to saying 'gay people should be tolerated,' which is different from saying "truly OK to be gay,'" stated Nathaniel from Des Moines. "Does your evolution of LGB people and issues extend to transgender people and issues affecting them, and how can LGBT voters trust that you'll represent them if you are merely tolerating instead of truly accepting of who they are?"
Gabbard has a problematic history on LGBTQ people. She was a state legislator in 2004 when she denounced “homosexual extremists,” who, she said, were falsely claiming there was a difference between civil unions and same-sex marriage. Hawaii was considering civil union legislation at the time. She also used the phrase to describe opponents of her father, Mike Gabbard, who ran an organization that worked against marriage equality and other LGBTQ causes, and reportedly endorsed conversion therapy.
Gabbard has since apologized for these remarks and she responded at the LGBTQ Forum as she has in the past — by citing to her record in the military and Congress.
"My record speaks for itself," Gabbard said. "You mentioned by service in the military, and throughout that service, I had the chance to serve alongside LGBT Americans and to get to know them. And in the most extreme circumstances. I knew as we were deployed that they would give their life for me and I would give my life for them. We had each other’s backs. There’s no question of that."
"My record in Congress reflects the same kind of commitment that I would carry forward as president," she continued. "My record in fighting for equality. My record in standing up to the Trump administration through my service on the Armed Services Committee, calling for an end to the trans ban in our military, recognizing those who are willing to put their lives on the line to serve our country. It is this stand for equality for all Americans that you will find my record and you will find in my commitment to carry forward as president, serving every single American in this country."
The LGBTQ Forum, co-hosted by GLAAD, One Iowa, The Gazette, and The Advocate, features a discussion of LGBTQ issues with Gabbard, former Vice President Biden, U.S. Senator Cory Booker, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, former Pennsylvania representative Joe Sestak, U.S Senator Elizabeth Warren, and author Marianne Williamson.