Like Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama, like millions of Americans in both political parties, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard began with a belief that the institution of marriage was limited to heterosexuals and partners of opposite sexes. Over time, evaluating the issues, human, legal and ethical, she came to the conclusion that she was originally mistaken, like almost all of civilization, and changed her position Apparently that’s not good enough.
Now Gabbard, who last week announced she was running for president, is apologizing profusely for her past views on gay rights and her past work for an advocacy group, the Alliance for Traditional Marriage, which was run by her father, State Senator Mike Gabbard. “In my past I said and believed things that were wrong, and worse, they were very hurtful to people in the LGPTQ community and to their loved ones,” Rep. Gabbard says in a video posted to YouTube. “My views have changed significantly since then,” she added, “and my record in Congress over the last six years reflects what is in my heart: a strong and ongoing commitment to fighting for LGBTQ rights.”
Admittedly Gabbard hasn’t merely been a passive part of the past majority that opposed gay marriage; she’s been one of the leaders of it. When she first ran for office in 2002, (she was 21) she said that working “to pass a constitutional amendment to protect traditional marriage” had taught her that “real leaders are willing to make personal sacrifices for the common good.” After being elected to the state legislature in 2006, she could be fairly called an anti-gay rights activist. She led a group called Stop Promoting Homosexuality America and hosted an anti-gay radio show called “Let’s Talk Straight Hawaii.” As a result, many gays, activists and not, are pronouncing her permanently tainted.
“We would hope that people have lifelong values of equality and inclusion that have been demonstrated over their lifetime,” said Stephanie Sandberg, the president of LPAC, an advocacy group for LGBT women. “From my point of view, this does not make good presidential material, especially from a progressive perspective.”
This is a sinister, though increasingly typical attitude. The Left is demanding not merely acceptance and endorsement of its cant, but ideological purity. If you have ever disagreed with the tenets of progressive wisdom, then you are not merely suspect, but untrustworthy. Why were the Clintons and Obama not subjected to this same standard? I don’t know. If they apologized for their past beliefs, I missed it. Why aren’t all the Democratic leaders who once endorsed the policy of building better fences at the Southern border groveling apologies now, as they take a diametrically opposite position so they can foil President Trump? Is the blasphemous belief that marriage should be as it was understood to be for centuries somehow more damning than other discarded assumptions? Why would that be?
My guess is that the LGBT community is flexing its metaphorical muscles and warning politicians not to oppose them on anything, ever.
Ethics is constantly evolving as human beings learn more about life and reality. There should be no shame in believing what your family, community and most of your culture believed; what is shameful, or at least far from admirable, is refusing to evaluate new information, to close one’s mind, and to stubbornly refuse to admit that what once seemed fair and right can no longer be defended by a rational person of integrity.
Stephanie Sandberg and others are now standing up for closed minds, for positions that cannot and never will evolve with new information and persuasive arguments, as long, of course, as those closed minds agree with them.
For me, Gabbard’s apology is more disqualifying for a leadership position than her earlier anti-gay marriage position. She shouldn’t apologize for thinking, evaluating the evidence, and changing her mind. That she is capable of that is a virtue…unless, of course, she hasn’t really changed what she believes, but what she has the courage to admit she believes.
If that’s the case, she owes everyone an apology.