"Working with my father, Mike Gabbard, and others to pass a constitutional amendment to protect traditional marriage, I learned that real leaders are willing to make personal sacrifices for the common good,” she said. "I will bring that attitude of public service to the legislature.”
Mike Gabbard, a Hawaii state senator, has been a longtime opponent of gay rights. He led the Alliance for Traditional Marriage, a political action committee that opposed same-sex marriage, and has called homosexuality “unhealthy, abnormal behavior that should not be promoted or accepted in society."
Gabbard has since changed her views. More recently, she backed multiple pieces of legislation to make discriminating against gay rights illegal. But that didn’t stop her past positions from filtering back into the news after she announced her run for president last weekend.
“While many Americans may relate to growing up in a conservative home, my story is a little different because my father was very outspoken. He was an activist who was fighting against gay rights and marriage equality in Hawaii — and at that time, I forcefully defended him,” Gabbard explained in a tweet. “But over the years, I formed my own opinions based on my life experience that changed my views — at a personal level in having aloha, love, for all people, and ensuring that every American, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, is treated equally under the law.”
Not so long ago, Gabbard’s opposition to gay marriage would not have been so unusual from a Democratic presidential hopeful.
It was Bill Clinton, after all, who enacted “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” In 2008, both of the leading Democratic presidential candidates — Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton — opposed same-sex marriage. That reflected where the country stood. In 2002, only about a third of adults favored same-sex marriage, including less than half of Democrats, according to the Pew Research Center.
In the decade since Obama’s first presidential run, same-sex marriage has become legal across the country. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has been repealed. Sixty-seven percent of Americans now support same-sex marriage.
That’s led to a similar shift among Democratic lawmakers. President Barack Obama expressed his support for gay marriage in 2012, citing his faith as part of the reason for the switch. Several red state Democrats who opposed gay marriage in 2012 came out in favor during the 2018 midterms. There are a record number of Democrats in Congress. And every Democrat currently running in the presidential primary has affirmed that they would appoint liberal judges and push anti-gay discrimination legislation if elected.
“This will be a robust primary with many champions of equality in the race," JoDee Winterhof, senior vice president for policy and political affairs for the Human Rights Campaign, one of the largest gay rights organizations in the country, told the Fix. "Anyone running for president and trying to win the support of the 10 million LGBTQ voters and our allies will have to not only explain past positions but articulate a vision and agenda for the future.”
That, apparently, now includes Gabbard.