Democratic presidential challenger Tulsi Gabbard denies she ever “personally” supported conversion therapy, despite working for an anti-LGBT lobbying group that did.
Gabbard, who represents Hawaii’s 2nd congressional district, hit back at claims she advocated for gay cure therapy in a CNN town hall debate on Monday (March 11).
Tulsi Gabbard claims she ‘never advocated’ conversion therapy
Responding to an audience member, Gabbard said: “I want to correct the record… I personally never supported any kind of conversion therapy, I never advocated for conversion therapy, and I frankly didn’t even know what conversion therapy was until the last few years, when someone was asking me about it.
“I was raised in a very socially conservative home, my father is Catholic and was a leading voice against gay marriage in Hawaii. I was very young, but these were the beliefs and values I grew up around.”
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard says at a CNN townhall she never supported conversion therapy. She worked at and touted the support of her father’s anti-gay group which strongly backed the practice when she first ran for the Hawaii state legislature in 2002. pic.twitter.com/GB1SeRccn1
— andrew kaczynski (@KFILE) March 11, 2019
Gabbard added that she changed her mind about LGBT+ people after serving in the military in the Middle East, claiming: “It caused me to confront that contradiction.
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“I served with gay, lesbian and trans service members, and we became very good friends, and knew I would give my life for any one of them.”
Tulsi Gabbard worked for group that promoted gay cure therapy
However, Gabbard, one of 16 Democrats in the race to challenge Donald Trump in 2020, has been accused of attempting to rewrite history on the issue.
She previously worked for Alliance For Traditional Marriage, a Hawaii anti-LGBT lobbying group run by her father, state senator Mike Gabbard.
The group’s website included materials directly supporting conversion therapy, claiming: “We must renew our efforts to reach out with love and compassion to those who are addicted to homosexual behaviour, and encourage them to seek help.”
The website directed people seeking “help” to some of the most prominent practitioners of gay cure therapy, including the disgraced groups Exodus International and the National Association of Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH).
The group also claimed that “thousands have successfully left the ‘gay’ lifestyle,” adding that “there are some excellent ‘ex-gay’ organizations (…) who are actively helping those who struggle with homosexual desires.
A young Gabbard starred in an anti-gay marriage ad in the early 2000s that compared gay weddings to incest and bestiality, opposing gay weddings because “I can’t marry my sister or my brother.”
The group run by her father also went by the name Stop Promoting Homosexuality.
Gabbard previously issued an apology for her past record, emphasising her work on LGBT+ issues in Congress.