Bernie Sanders on LGBTQ rights

Bernie Sanders has been consistent in his belief that the LGBTQ community deserves equal rights, and has supported them long before it was politically expedient to do so.

In 1972 and 1976, when Bernie first ran for office in Vermont, he was an outspoken ally of the LGBTQ community; as a plank of his platform, he proposed the abolishment of all discriminatory laws pertaining to sexuality.In 1983, after he was elected to be mayor of Burlington, Vt., Bernie backed the city’s first-ever pride march.

Throughout his decades of public service, Bernie has voted against measures that impede the LGBTQ community’s rights and has supported those that protect them from discrimination. In recognition of Bernie’s record, the Human Rights Campaign gave him a 100% rating during the 113th Congress.

LGBTQ Values Are Family Values

Bernie was an early supporter and continue to be a committed advocate for LGBTQ families. He has regularly fought for them to have the same rights as families formed by heterosexual couples, publicly equating family values with LGBTQ values.

What is Bernie’s history on same-sex marriage?

He has long been a supporter of same-sex marriage, voting against the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) passed by Congress in 1996. In 2015, he said of that vote: “Back in 1996, that was a tough vote. Not too many people voted against it, but I did.” (In fact, he’s the only presidential candidate in the 2016 race who can say that.)

As both a congressman and later the junior senator from Vermont, he supported that state’s 2000 civil union law and 2009 law legalizing gay marriage. In 2011, he called on President Obama to “join in supporting marriage equality.”

In 2013, he co-sponsored the Uniting Families Act, which would have allowed partners of any legal U.S. citizen or resident to obtain lawful permanent residency. This bill was primarily intended to allow LGBTQ residents and citizens of the United States to bring their partners into America, just as members of opposite sex couples are able to do.

When the Supreme Court overturned DOMA in June 2015, he praised the historic ruling that legalized same-sex marriage across the country.

To what does Bernie credit the success of marriage quality?

Here’s a video of Bernie talking about the grassroots movement around marriage equality a little under two months before the Supreme Court ruling that overturned DOMA:

At a campaign stop in Nashua, N.H. shortly after the ruling, Bernie underscored again that it was made possible because of grassroots pressure on politicians and the justice system:

“No one here should think for one second this starts with the Supreme Court. It starts at the grassroots level in all 50 states. The American people want to end discrimination in all its forms… Because of the decency of the American people, because of the strength of the gay rights movement, we have changed consciousness in this country.”

How does Bernie feel about adoption by same-sex couples?

He’s for it. In 1999, Bernie voted against an amendment that would have prevented same-sex couples in Washington D.C. from adopting children.

Addressing Discrimination

Beyond the hot-button issue of same-sex marriage, the LGBTQ community faces discrimination in many other aspects of life. Bernie believes that the LGBTQ community should have equal rights in all respects, including the right to be free of discrimination at school, in the workplace, and in the military.

What has Bernie done to make attending school easier for LGBTQ youth?

LGBTQ students are often the target of bullying; 55 percent say they feel unsafe attending class. Bernie signed the Student Non-Discrimination Act of 2011 and co-sponsored the Student Non-Discrimination Act of 2013.

Despite all the progress, we have a ways to go with regards to LGBTQ issues in the workplace. What has Bernie done about that?

Yes, unfortunately many LGBTQ people still feel uncomfortable or even unsafe coming out in their workplaces. And they can’t be blamed — they’re paid less and have fewer employment opportunities than non-LGBTQ Americans.

Bernie voted in favor of the Employment Discrimination Act in 2009 to prohibit workplace discrimination as a result of sexual orientation. He commended President Barack Obama last year after he issued an executive order prohibiting discrimination against gay and transgender federal employees saying:

“We’ve got to end LGBT discrimination in the workplace. Vermont did this 22 years ago when it passed one of the first state laws in the country protecting lesbian and gay workers. Congress should have acted long ago, but Republicans have blocked action. The House won’t even allow a vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that the Senate passed last year. That’s why the executive order that President Obama is signing on Monday is an important step in the right direction.”

What has Bernie’s position been with regards to LGBTQ people in the U.S. military?

Bernie Sanders voted against Don’t Ask Don’t Tell when it was introduced in 1993. After the policy was introduced in 1993, the military discharged over 13,000 troops, and discharges relating to this policy continued to exceed over 600 until 2009.

In 1995, while the policy was in place, Bernie angrily chastised a Republican congressman who referred to “homos in the military” as a problem:

Bernie has continued to be a vocal advocate for the repeal of the policy throughout the years, so it’s little surprise that in 2010 Bernie was among those in Congress who voted to repeal the ill-conceived policy.

Recently, Bernie has responded directly to concerns raised by the United States military’s transgender community. In a recent Q&A session on the online forum Reddit, Sanders stated:


“As somebody who has consistently voted to end discrimination in all forms — who voted against DOMA way back in the 1990s — I will do all that I can to continue our efforts to make this a nondiscriminatory society, whether those being discriminated against are transgender, gay, black or Hispanic.”