[NOTE: A few hours after this story went live we finally received comment from Rep. Gabbard’s campaign. The story has been updated to include it.]
Back in the summer of 2012, while preparing our political endorsements for that year’s Hawaii Primary Election, we couldn’t figure out what to do in the 2nd District Congressional race. It’s a big district that encompasses all of Hawaii except for Honolulu, and it was an open race with a lot of candidates. One of them, Honolulu Councilmember and Democrat Tulsi Gabbard, looked great on paper but we couldn’t figure out where she stood on same-sex marriage.
While she seemed to be in support of it now, we kept finding newspaper and magazine articles dating to 2004, when she first joined the city council, that showed clear, defiant opposition to same-sex marriage. So we went to Twitter, found her handle, and asked her point blank if she supported it.
“Yes!” she quickly tweeted back, and we endorsed her. Gabbard went on to with both the Primary and that year’s General Election, and has been the 2nd District Representative ever since. Though mostly known for speaking out on military and foreign policy issues, her 2016 campaign website states that she continues to support same-sex marriage.
“The government should not deny those in same-sex relationships the right to marry and enjoy the same benefits, rights, and responsibilities as opposite-sex married couples,” Gabbard says on her campaign website. “Government and political leaders like myself should have no place in determining the most personal aspects of our lives. Government officials should not have the power to declare one relationship ‘morally’ superior to another. As long as the government administers marriages and its benefits, it must remain neutral and treat all Americans as equal.”
Which is why the July 18 news release from the Hawaii Democratic Party’s LGBT Caucus was so surprising. The news release listed their Statements of Support for the 2016 state Primary Election. In the 2nd District race, the caucus issued a statement of “Strong Support” for Democrat Shay Chan Hodges, who’s running against Gabbard in the Primary, but listed no statement whatsoever for Gabbard.
“She [Chan Hodges] did a wonderful interview with us,” LGBT Caucus Chairperson Michael Golojuch, Jr. told us by phone on July 22. “Her answers were spot-on, in-depth and detailed. She would be a breath of fresh air in Congress.”
Gabbard, according to Golojuch, was more problematic. “Her [questionnaire] responses were short,” he said. And then, he said, there was the 2015 interview she gave for the website Ozy.
That story, first posted on Sept. 27, 2015 and titled “Tulsi Gabbard: A Young Star Headed For The Cabinet?” is a detailed but positive profile of Gabbard. The portion that alarmed Golojuch and the LGBT Caucus appeared halfway through, and deals with Gabbard’s views on same-sex marriage–both before she got elected to Congress, and after.
“About 10 years ago, Gabbard violated some of the tenets that now make her so popular as a Democrat with an EMILY’s List endorsement to boot–she was neither pro-choice nor pro-gay-marriage, and in fact fell in line with her erstwhile Republican father [Hawaii state Senator Mike Gabbard],” states the article. “After repeated follow-ups, the congresswoman replies with a note about her sponsorship of the Equality Act (adding sexual orientation to categories of prohibited discrimination) and of her support for equal treatment of gay service members’ spouses.”
So far, so good, right? Except right after that Ozy drops this bombshell:
“Fittingly for her narrative, though, the explanation for her changed ideology feints us back onto familiar territory–the military,” states the article. “It was, she says, the days in the Middle East that taught her the dangers of a theocratic government ‘imposing its will’ on the people. (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.)”
So after all this time, Gabbard still personally opposes same-sex marriage, but won’t say or do anything politically about it? This puts her campaign statement on same-sex marriage that we cited above in an entirely different light.
Golojuch said the LGBT Caucus still planned to interview Gabbard in person, but Gabbard’s staff cancelled that on July 17.
“It was just brought to our attention that your chairman and vice chairman have been campaigning for Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard’s opponent (please see examples below),” Erika Tsuji, Gabbard’s campaign press aide, said in an email to Golojuch (who forwarded it and others to MauiTime). “Therefore, there is obviously no need for any ‘who are we going to endorse?’ interviews. Tulsi has already submitted answers to your written questionnaire.”
As for the “examples” she mentioned, she included in her July 17 email were half a dozen links to Facebook posts Golojuch and LGBT Caucus Vice-Chairperson James Mateo had made in support of Chan Hodges. Golojuch insisted both to Tsuji and MauiTime that he and Mateo made those posts as individuals, not as officials for the LGBT Caucus.
“It appears that you have spent a lot of time researching James and my on-line postings and I am flattered that you are so interested in us,” Golojuch said in his emailed reply to Tsuji. “But the one thing is that none of those posts were done in our official capacity as Chair or Vice-Chair of the LGBT Caucus.”
In any case, Tsuji added in her July 17 email, Gabbard didn’t need the LGBT Caucus’ statement of support anyway.
“Considering Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard’s 100% record on LGBT issues in Congress, and the Human Rights Campaign [HRC] endorsing her re-election, it unfortunately appears that your leadership is out of touch with the majority of those in the LGBT community who appreciate Tulsi’s commitment to issues impacting the LGBT community,” she said in her email to Golojuch.
This really burned Golojuch. “Just so you know the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) does not speak for the entire or even a majority of the LGBTQ community, especially after they endorsed Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth’s republican challenger for the US Sentate [sic],” Golojuch added in his email to Tsuji.
“The HRC has been out of step with local politics and needs,” Golojuch told MauiTime. He also said he felt insulted that “a straight person” would try to school the Caucus on who they should support. And, he added, the Caucus had “reached out to” Gabbard during the 2013 Legislative Special Session on same-sex marriage, only to be rebuffed. “We were told that Congresswoman Gabbard doesn’t get involved in state politics,” he said, though he noted that Representative Colleen Hanabusa and Senators Mazie Hirono and Brian Schatz had sent people to testify in support of the same-sex marriage bill.
did not respond to a phone call asking for comment by presstime emailed a statement on the evening of July 25 in response to our phone inquiry that morning. Though it doesn’t address the particulars of the LGBT Caucus refusal to support her, here it is, in full:
“Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is extremely proud of her work in Congress fighting for the LGBT community of Hawaii. She has been a strong voice on LGBT issues and that is reflected in her voting record, which was scored at 100 percent. She will continue to take a strong stance on LGBT rights and marriage equality in the future. For example, she has co-sponsored the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, co-sponsored the Restore Honor to Service Members Act, co-sponsored the Respect for Marriage Act, co-sponsored the Repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, co-sponsored the Military Spouses Equal Treatment Act, co-sponsored the Safe Schools Improvement Act, co-sponsored the Equality Act, co-sponsored the Healthy Families Act, co-sponsored the Equality for All Resolution, signed the Marriage Equality Amicus Briefs, advocated for LGBT Housing / Privacy Rights and advocated to End Bullying and Harassment in Schools, to name a few. We hope any and all organizations will see Tulsi’s leadership on these issues, but most importantly, that the people of Hawaii know she is working hard on their behalf and will continue to do so in the future.”
For Golojuch, though, the statement is too little, too late.
“Co-sponsoring is not leadership,” he told me after reading the statement. “She tells one organization one thing, and another something else. When we needed her, she wasn’t there. We still don’t know what her true position is on LGBT rights.”
Photo courtesy Rep. Gabbard’s office