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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 21, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 34
Bernie Sanders on the record: Longtime supporter of LGBT rights
Section One
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Bernie Sanders on the record: Longtime supporter of LGBT rights

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Everybody knows that Hillary Clinton made LGBT rights a marquee issue during her tenure as secretary of state. What is less well known is the fact that Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Clinton's chief challenger for the Democratic presidential nomination, has a pro-Gay record going back to the early '80s - when Hillary Clinton was merely the spouse of an ambitious Southern politician.

In 1983, LGBT leaders in Burlington, Vt., were planning the city's first-ever Pride parade. They approached then-Mayor Bernie Sanders to designate June 25 as 'Lesbian and Gay Pride Day.'

In the face of stiff opposition from local Christian groups, Sanders fought for the Pride resolution before Burlington's Board of Aldermen, the equivalent of a city council.

'In our democratic society, it is the responsibility of government to safeguard civil liberties and civil rights - especially the freedom of speech and expression,' Sanders wrote in a memorandum. 'In a free society, we must all be committed to the mutual respect of each others' lifestyle.'

With Sanders' support, the measure narrowly passed by a vote of 6 to 5.

Although the parade went off without a hitch, Burlington resident Maikel Carder was attacked and beaten up a few days afterward because of the perception that he was Gay. He was, in fact, straight, but the incident allowed anti-Gay forces to blame the Pride celebration for inciting violence.

Nevertheless, Sanders continued to support Burlington Pride, and in 1984, he supported a resolution recommending that all levels of government support LGBT rights.

In 1985, Sanders sponsored a measure barring discrimination against LGBT residents in housing.

'It is my very strong view that a society which proclaims human freedom as its goal, as the United States does, must work unceasingly to end discrimination against all people,' he wrote at the time.

'I am happy to say that this past year, in Burlington, we have made some important progress by adopting an ordinance which prohibits discrimination in housing. This law will give legal protection not only to welfare recipients, and families with children, the elderly and the handicapped - but to the gay community as well.'

As a congressman in 1996, Sanders was one of only 67 House members to vote against DOMA, the law that defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman. It was signed into law by then-President Bill Clinton.

In 2006, he also voted against House Joint Resolution 88, which was meant not only to deny same-sex couples the right to marry but to bar them from receiving any of the benefits of marriage by way of another institution - domestic partnership, or civil union, for example.

As a senator, he continued to support equality for Lesbian and Gay couples and the rights of the LGBT community in general, from 2007 to the present, voting for federal hate crimes protections and to repeal 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.'

Sanders also strongly supported the Supreme Court's decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states.

'Today the Supreme Court fulfilled the words engraved upon its building: 'Equal justice under law,' ' Sanders wrote after the high court's ruling.

'This decision is a victory for same-sex couples across our country as well as all those seeking to live in a nation where every citizen is afforded equal rights. For far too long our justice system has marginalized the gay community, and I am very glad the Court has finally caught up to the American people.'

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