Bernie Sanders, the longest-serving independent member of Congress, is officially challenging Hillary Clinton by seeking the Democratic nomination for president in 2016. While many politicians, both Republican and Democratic, have jumped on the gay rights bandwagon as of late, Bernie Sanders has supported gay rights and equality for more than 30 years.
The self-described “Democratic Socialist” wants to challenge how business is done on Capitol Hill while voicing his positions on major issues on the campaign trail. And one very big issue for Bernie is LGBTQ rights and equality. The man has historically put his money where his mouth is.
Back in 1983 when he was mayor of Burlington, Vermont, the local gay community planned the city’s first gay pride parade. Gay rights leaders called on the board to designate June 25 as Lesbian and Gay Pride Day. Against strong, hateful opposition, Sanders threw his full support to win 6 to 5 to pass the resolution.
But this was just the beginning of Sanders’ progressive agenda. In 1984, he signed a resolution recommending that all levels of government support gay rights. In 1985, in the midst of a panic over the new and barely understood AIDS epidemic, he wrote: “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. 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.”
Sanders has been steadfast to his commitment to equality for all. Thanks to Sanders’ push, his home state of Vermont was the first to recognize same-sex unions as civil unions, followed by the legalization of those same-sex unions in 2000. Vermont made gay marriage legal in 2009, passing legislation freely supporting same-sex unions, as opposed to the more common and arduous path of gay marriage in other states, through the courts and as reactionary legislation.
“He’s got my vote,” says Kevin Feltridge, a customer of title loans Scottsdale. “He’s done so many great things for our community.”
In 1996, Representative Sanders voted against the Defense of Marriage Act, which barred recognition of gay marriage at the federal level. As the Supreme Court took up the issue of gay marriage, Sanders issued the following statement on his website:
“Of course all citizens deserve equal rights. It’s time for the Supreme Court to catch up to the American people and legalize gay marriage.”
With a perfect score of 100 percent on the Human Rights Campaign’s latest Congressional Equality Index, he’s a solid presidential contender with a good track record that backs up his platform.
“People should not underestimate me,” Sanders told the Associated Press in a post-candidacy announcement interview. “I’ve run outside of the two-party system, defeating Democrats and Republicans, taking on big-money candidates and, you know, I think the message that has resonated in Vermont is a message that can resonate all over this country.”