Bernie Sanders on LGBTQ rights

Bernie Sanders has been a steadfast and reliable supporter of LGBTQ equality throughout his decades of public service. Since 1972, Bernie has been an outspoken ally of the LGBTQ community. When Bernie first ran for office in Vermont in 1972, a plank of his platform proposed abolishing all discriminatory laws pertaining to sexuality. In 1983, after he was elected to be mayor of Burlington, Vermont, Bernie backed the city’s first-ever pride march. In the 1980s, as mayor of Burlington, Bernie created a Trans Mecca in Burlington

Bernie voted against Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act. The Human Rights Campaign consistently gives him a 100% rating.

LGBTQ Values Are Family Values: Bernie supported gay marriage long before it was politically expedient to do so, and also supports gay adoption.

Addressing Discrimination: Bernie has long cosponsored and voted for legislation that supports the LGBTQ community’s equal rights in schools, the workplace, and the military.

LGBTQ Values Are Family Values

Bernie was an early supporter and continues 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.

How did Bernie vote on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell?

He voted against it.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, allowed gays and lesbians to serve in the military only if they stayed in the closet and weren’t open about their sexual orientation.

Check out this video of Bernie standing up for LGBTQ rights in 1995:

How did Bernie vote on the Defense of Marriage Act?

In 1996, Bernie voted against the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) law, which defined marriage as between one man and one woman, and denied federal benefits to gay spouses. Bernie was one of the few members of Congress who voted against DOMA. He cosponsored legislation to repeal the law. He voted against bills seeking to amend the Constitution to ban same-sex marriage, and he joined other members of Congress in a friend-of-the-court brief urging justices to void the discriminatory statute

In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the section of DOMA that denied federal benefits to same sex spouses was unconstituional. The discriminatory legacy of DOMA continued until 2015, when the section of DOMA that allowed states to ban gay marriage was ruled unconstitional and same-sex marriage was legalized.

Check out this video were Bernie Sanders speaks about the history of DOMA.

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.”

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

How has Bernie voted on same-sex marriage?

He has long been a supporter of same-sex marriage. He supported Vermont’s 2000 civil union law and supported Vermont’s 2009 first-in-the-country law legalizing gay marriage. In 2011, he called on President Obama to “join in supporting marriage equality.”

Bernie cosponsored the Uniting Families Act of 2013, which would have allowed partners of any legal U.S. citizen or resident to obtain lawful permanent residency. This bill was primarily intended to give LGBTQ citizens the same right given to heterosexual citizens to bring their partners into America.

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

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

He is a cosponsor of the Every Child Deserves a Family Act of 2017, which “prohibits adoption or foster care placement entities that receive federal assistance from using the sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status of a prospective adoptive or foster parent, or from using the sexual orientation or gender identity of the child.”

How long has Bernie been an advocate for gay rights?

At least since 1972, when he wrote a letter that objected to the government imposing morality on people. In the letter, Bernie proposed abolishing all discriminatory laws pertaining to sexuality, including homosexuality. 

Read it for yourself:


Addressing Discrimination

“Today LGBTQ people are more than 4.5% of our population but only hold 0.1% of elected offices. We must support the LGBTQ community in achieving the representation they deserve.” – Bernie Sanders, 2019

Members of the LGBTQ community face discrimination in many areas 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; 59 percent say they feel unsafe attending class. 35 percent said they missed a day at school because they felt unsafe. Bernie signed the Student Non-Discrimination Act of 2011 and cosponsored the Student Non-Discrimination Act of 2013.

Bernie opposes the Trump administration proposal to roll back protections for transgender students:

“The attacks against transgender people are part of a bigotry which has got to end. To young transgender people I say: We stand with you. We will not allow Donald Trump or anyone else to take away your rights. We have got to continue to fight to protect and support all children in this country.”

What has Bernie done to address discrimination against LGBTQ people in the workplace?

Unfortunately many LGBTQ people still feel uncomfortable or even unsafe coming out in their workplaces. Bernie commended President Barack Obama in July of 2014 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.”

Is there a sexual orientation wage gap?

There are high levels of discrimination in the workplace against members of the LGTBQ community. Research shows that LGBTQ people are paid less and have fewer employment opportunities than non-LGBTQ Americans.

Based on one survey conducted by Chadwick Martin Bailey, LGBTQ workers earn less than straight people. The LGBTQ wage gap described below is not included in the Bureau of Labor and Statistics data because sexual orientation is not included in the data the U.S. government collects.

Average reported income of the survey respondents:

  • Lesbian – $45,606
  • Gay – $56,936
  • Bisexual woman – $35,980
  • Bisexual man – $85,084
  • Heterosexual woman – $51,461
  • Heterosexual man – $83,469

It is difficult to draw conclusions about the causes, prevalence, or persistence of the LGBTQ wage gap from just one study. One thing we do know is that members of the LGBTQ community faces ongoing discrimination in the workplace. 

Bernie voted in favor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in 2009 to prohibit workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. Bernie also voted for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013, which prohibits workplace discrimination against gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.

Bernie is a cosponsor of the Equality Act of 2019, which would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation.

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 (DADT) when it was introduced in 1993. After the policy was introduced in 1993, the military discharged over 13,000 troops. Discharges relating to this policy continued to exceed over 600 until 2009.

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


Bernie was a consistent critic of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and voted to repeal this ill-conceived policy in 2010.



Recently, Bernie has responded directly to concerns raised by the United States military’s transgender community. In a 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.”

Bernie opposes the proposed ban on transgender people who want to serve in the military:

“In announcing this ban on transgender people in the military, the Trump administration has shown once again that it is on the wrong side of history. There is a reason the administration has not provided any scientific evidence to justify this policy: there is no justification for this sort of discrimination. Transgender people have served and continue to serve our country honorably in the military. Unfortunately, this administration is not treating them honorably. The struggle for equality for all Americans continues, and Donald Trump’s efforts to divide us will not succeed.”

Are LGBTQ rights addressed in Bernie’s 2020 platform?

Yes! Bernie’s 2020 platform calls for an end to all forms of discrimination against the LGBTQ community. This includes passing the Equality Act and the Every Child Deserves a Family Act, advancing policy proposals to make sure LGBTQ students can attend school without fear of bullying, oppose any legislation that purports to “protect” religious liberty, and much more.