They returned in the form of homophobic remarks the congresswoman made over a decade ago. At least twice the Hawaii Democrat publicly called the LGBTQ community and supporters of same-sex marriage “homosexual extremists.”
In one instance in February 2004, Gabbard, at the time a 22-year-old state representative, was testifying against a bill aimed at 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. “As Democrats, we should be representing the views of the people, not a small number of homosexual extremists.”
Six months later, Gabbard spoke more candidly while replying to an email originally sent to her father, Mike Gabbard, who was a Republican city councilman in Honolulu running for Congress.
“I smell a skunk,” Gabbard told Honolulu Magazine. She was responding to an email that was originally addressed to her father asking about his ties to the leader of a Hare Krishna movement in Hawaii, according to the magazine.
“It’s clear to me that you’re acting as a conduit for The Honolulu Weekly and other homosexual extremist supporters of Ed Case [Mike Gabbard’s opponent],” she wrote.
In a statement provided to HuffPost on Sunday night, Gabbard said she regretted her previous conduct, but noted her recent support for legislation backing LGBTQ rights over her years in Congress.
“First, let me say I regret the positions I took in the past, and the things I said,” Gabbard said. “I’m grateful for those in the LGBTQ+ community who have shared their aloha with me throughout my personal journey.”
“Over the past six years in Congress, I have been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to help work toward passing legislation that ensures equal rights and protections on LGBTQ+ issues,” she continued.
“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 said.
Gabbard was elected to the U.S. House in 2012 and became the first Hindu member of Congress, as well as one of Congress’ first female combat veterans. She quickly became a star of the Democratic Party with her own rogue brand of progressive leadership.
Gabbard’s remarks from 14 years ago were bound to resurface as she walked even further into the national spotlight with her presidential bid.
And while Gabbard, 37, has evolved since then ― she once backed a bill targeting discrimination based on sexual orientation and famously endorsed Bernie Sanders’ presidential bid at the expense of her post as Democratic National Committee vice chair ― some people, including journalists from Hawaii to D.C., wouldn’t let her off easy for her homophobic remarks.
Gabbard may back legislation that supports the LGBTQ community, but it’s unclear if her personal views have evolved with her career.
A 2016 profile of the combat veteran published in Ozy suggests otherwise: “She tells me that, no, her personal views haven’t changed, but she doesn’t figure it’s her job to do as the Iraqis did and force her own beliefs on others,” noted reporter Sanjena Sathian.
This story has been updated with Gabbard’s statement to HuffPost.
David Barden contributed reporting.