U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, has posted a video apologizing for anti-LGBTQ remarks she made several years ago.
Gabbard, now a member of Congress from Hawaii, 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 unions 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.
"In my past, I said and believed things that were wrong, and worse, they were very hurtful to people in the LGBTQ community and to their loved ones," Gabbard, 37, said in a video posted to YouTube today. She said her views had changed, and she had apologized for her statements previously, but was now "sincerely" repeating her apology.
"My record in Congress over the past six years reflects what is in my heart, a strong and ongoing commitment to fighting for LGBTQ rights," she said. She had a perfect score of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign's Congressional Scorecard for her most recent term in the U.S. House, after scores of 88 and 92 in her previous two terms.
She said she knows that LGBTQ people still face struggles and fear that "hard-won rights will be taken away by people who hold views like I used to."
"That cannot happen," she added.
She said she grew up believing in the equality of all people, but she also grew up in a socially conservative household that believed marriage should be reserved only for male-female couples. "For a period of my life, I did not see the contradiction in those beliefs," she said. She fiercely defended her father, but her life experiences changed her thinking about LGBTQ people.
"I'm so grateful to my friends, my loved ones, both gay and straight, who have patiently helped me see how my past positions on these issues were at odds with my values ... and that they were causing people harm," she continued. She expressed regret for causing pain and stated her commitment to fighting for LGBTQ equality.
Gabbard is among several Democrats who have announced they are seeking the party's 2020 presidential nomination. Former Democratic National Committee chair Howard Dean today singled out Gabbard as the lone unqualified person among declared and likely presidential aspirants, citing her past anti-LGBTQ statements as one reason.
"I don't think she knows what she's doing and I don't think she ... is qualified. She's not qualified," Dean said of Gabbard on CNN's New Day.
He mentioned her "dalliances" with Syrian President Bashar Assad, with whom she met in 2017, and "her statements about gay people."
Watch Gabbard's video below.