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Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard hit back at critics of legislation she’s introduced to prevent transgender women from competing in female sports and for the care of infant survivors of late-term abortion, calling them “hypocrites.”
A number of people called Gabbard, who leaves Congress this month, “transphobic” and a “right wing s—t heel” on Twitter, among other invectives.
“I welcome real criticism and debate,” Gabbard (D-Hawaii) told The Post Saturday. “But my so-called critics don’t want to debate the issues. They just want to engage in smears and slurs and name-calling and innuendo.”
Gabbard, 39, who decided to leave Congress last year to focus on her failed presidential bid, said she is “maximizing” the time she has left in office and said she fears for the U.S.
“Identity politics is having an incredibly destructive effect on our country rather than recognizing what connects all Americans,” she said. “It’s being done to help people and parties get in power and stay in power by pitting individual Americans against each other.”
Gabbard (D-Hawaii) and Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) introduced a bill to Congress Thursday that would “protect women’s sports” based on participants’ biological sex.
Title IX protects individuals from discrimination based on sex in educational programs or activities that receive federal funding.
Gabbard said the legislation does not discriminate against anyone, rather it “protects the rights of biological females competing in sports against having to compete against biological men who identify as female. It’s not a level playing field. And it’s mind-boggling how quickly people attack those whose positions are based on science and common sense.”
But LBGTQ rights advocate Charlotte Clymer was one of numerous activists who called the legislation “blatantly transphobic.” She accused Gabbard supporters of using trans people as “bargaining chips.”
The backlash against her new bills, Gabbard said, echoes the blowback she got during her failed presidential bid because she didn’t go along with Democratic Party narratives.
“The real reason why so many people are upset by my Title IX legislation is that it recognizes the biological distinction between men and women,” Gabbard said.
“It’s the height of hypocrisy for someone who claims to be an advocate for women’s rights to also simultaneously to deny the biological existence of women. How can someone claim to be a champion of women while denying our very existence?”
Gabbard also introduced a bill mandating care for babies who survive abortions, legislation that appeared similar to one the Democrats blocked last year.
Jill Filipovic, a writer and lawyer, wrote on Twitter that it was a “redundant” bill that “claims to protect infants in the infinitesimally rare cases they are born after attempted abortions. … but in fact just criminalizes doctors, vilifies women, and fear-mongers about abortion.”
Gabbard declined to say what she plans to do after leaving Congress and hesitated when asked if she thought President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris were better for the country than President Trump.
“There are things I agree and disagree with when it comes to Trump as well as Biden,” she said. “What I think is important is we have a leader committed to serving the American people and to key issues like ending regime-change wars and the new cold war arms race.”
When asked what it was like to see Harris, on whom Gabbard unloaded to great effect during the Democratic presidential debate in August 2019, criticizing her record as a California prosecutor, become the first female Vice President-elect, Gabbard paused.
“I will point again to what I said about identity politics,” she said. “The word ‘diversity’ gets tossed around a lot. You want to have people in our government who are best suited to serving the American people. There’s a lot of criticism about the people Biden is choosing. Maybe don’t have everyone coming in from the elite world of Washington. How about having some diversity in the actual qualifications you bring to the job?”
Gabbard said she experienced what she called the double standard around the diversity issue during her presidential bid. Though she qualifies as a woman of color because she is part Samoan, Gabbard said she was effectively discriminated against because she’s defied so much of what her own party stands for.
“There was an event called ‘She the People’ during the campaign that was directed to an audience of women of color,” Gabbard said. “I did not receive an invitation. My staff called and I got an invitation and I spoke at it. There were people there who were pissed off that while I was speaking I didn’t use the words, ‘women of color.’ The Washington Post didn’t even say I was there when they listed the other presidential candidates.”
Gabbard said the incident “was one of many different examples I experienced throughout my campaign that made it clear that many people who talk about supporting women only do so if those women support the party bosses.”
While Gabbard won’t disclose her future plans, she said the one thing that won’t change is her daily meditation practice which she said is “everything” to her. She was the first Hindu elected to Congress and said the Bhagavad Gita is the basis for her spiritual practice.
“I carry meditation beads all the time,” she said. “My practice provides me with a daily foundation and helps me from being distracted or shaken up by the outside.”
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