Bernie Sanders on Civil Rights

Socialist Jr Senator; previously Representative (VT-At-Large)


What kind of response would happen if Flint MI were white?

Q [to Clinton]: On the Flint lead poisoning disaster, you have been critical of Gov. Rick Snyder, and how the state caused the lead poisoning problem, and has not acted fast enough to fix it. Would you as President order a federal response?

Hillary CLINTON: Absolutely. If Michigan won't do it, there have to be ways that we can begin to move, and then make them pay for it.

SANDERS: The Secretary described the situation appropriately. I did ask for the resignation of Governor Snyder because his irresponsibility was so outrageous. What we are talking about are children being poisoned. The idea that there has not been a dramatic response is beyond comprehension. When you have significant public health crisis, of course the federal government comes in. One wonders if this were a white suburban community what kind of response there would have been. Flint is a poor community. It is disproportionately African-American and minority. And what has happened there is absolutely unacceptable.

Source: MSNBC Democratic primary debate in New Hampshire , Feb 4, 2016

Combat institutional racism and reform justice system

Q: Do black lives matter, or do all lives matter?

A: Black lives matter. The African American community knows that on any given day some innocent person like Sandra Bland can get into a car, and three days later she's dead in jail. We need to combat institutional racism from top to bottom, and we need major reforms in a broken criminal justice system. I intend to make sure people have education and jobs rather than jail cells.

Source: 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas , Oct 13, 2015

Vermont implemented ENDA 22 years ago; so should feds

Q: Despite progress, we have a ways to go with regards to LGBTQ issues in the workplace.

A: 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 Pres. Obama last year after he prohibited 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, House Republicans won't even allow a vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act [ENDA] that the Senate passed last year. That's why Pres. Obama's executive order is an important step in the right direction."

Source: 2016 grassroots campaign website FeelTheBern.org, "Issues" , Sep 5, 2015

Black Lives Matter: deal with institutional racism

Q: At Netroots Nation, you had a confrontation with a Black Lives Matter--

SANDERS: No, I didn't have a confrontation. I was there to speak about immigration reform. And some people thought of disrupting the meeting. And the issue that they raised was, in fact, a very important issue, about Black Lives Matter, in this case of Sandra Bland, about black people getting yanked out of an automobile, thrown to the ground, and ended up dead three days later because of a minor traffic violation.

Q: Well, I guess there were some people who felt that you were being too dismissive of the protesters.

SANDERS: Well, I'm not dismissive. I've been involved in the Civil Rights movement all of my life. And I believe that we have to deal with this issue of institutional racism. But we have to deal with the reality that 50% of young black kids are unemployed. That we have massive poverty in the America, in our country, and we an unsustainable level of income and wealth inequality.

Source: Meet the Press 2015 interviews of 2016 presidential hopefuls , Jul 26, 2015

Right to love each other, regardless of sexual orientation

Q: On same-sex marriage, you have been way out in front when it comes to the rights of same-sex couples. What about the idea of taking away the tax exemption from any organizations, including religious ones, that do not recognize same-sex marriage?

SANDERS: I don't know that I would go there. Now, you know, we have religious freedom. And I respect people who have different points of view. But my view is that people have a right to love each other, regardless of one's sexual orientation. I voted against the DOMA act, the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, way back in 1996 that was signed by President Clinton, because I think, if people are in love, they should be able to get married in this country in 50 states in America. And I strongly support what the Supreme Court recently said.

Source: CNN SOTU 2015 interview series: 2016 presidential hopefuls , Jul 5, 2015

Voter ID laws marginalize communities of color

[On issues relevant to Latino voters], in addition to immigration reform, we must also pursue policies that empower minority communities. This must start with energizing Latinos all across the country to engage in the democratic process and by thwarting efforts to disenfranchise minority voters. Restricting access through draconian voter ID laws and shortening early voting periods are thinly-veiled efforts to marginalize communities of color, low income people and seniors. These policies must be combatted at both the state and federal levels.
Source: The Essential Bernie Sanders, by Jonathan Tasini, p. 99 , Jun 29, 2015

Remove Confederate flag from State Houses

In the last 60 years this country has made significant progress on civil rights. But clearly, the events [regarding the Confederate flag] remind us how far we yet have to go in order to create a non-racist society.

I do not live in South Carolina. But I do believe that the time is long overdue for the people of South Carolina to remove the Confederate flag from the state house grounds in Columbia.

That flag is a relic of our nation's stained racial history. It should come down. Frankly, the Confederate flag does not belong on state house grounds. It belongs in a museum.

Source: The Essential Bernie Sanders, by Jonathan Tasini, p.105-6 , Jun 25, 2015

Equal pay for equal work by women

Women workers today earn 78 percent of what their male counterparts make. We need pay equity in our country--equal pay for equal work.
Source: 2016 presidential campaign website, BernieSanders.com , Mar 21, 2015

Bush’s tracking citizens’ phone call patterns is illegal

Sanders says the Administration’s plan to track the phone calling patterns of millions of American is illegal. The Bush plan has so angered Sanders that he’s joined a legal effort to prohibit this practice in the future. Sanders says, “This president cannot do whatever he wants whenever he wants to. That is illegal. That is unconstitutional to my mind - the idea that the government can tap people’s phones or get into their emails without a court warrant is clearly wrong and it is clearly illegal.”

Sanders says it’s important to conduct effective anti terrorism programs, but he says these programs must be conducted within the limits of the law. Sanders says, “We want a vigorous investigation of anybody that the government or the FBI believes is involved in terrorist activity. But you can’t just have a situation where the government can go after anybody for any reason without any probable cause, without going to getting a court warrant. I think that that is a very dangerous precedent.”

Source: Bob Kinzel series of interviews on Vermont Public Radio , Jun 5, 2006

1964: civil rights activist in Congress on Racial Equality

I spent one year at Brooklyn College and 4 years at the University of Chicago, from which I graduated with a BA in 1964. I was not a good student. I learned a lot more from my out-of-class activities than I did through my formal studies. At the university I became a member of the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE), the Student Peace Union (SPU), and the Young People's Socialist League (YPSL). I participated in civil rights activities related to ending segregation in Chicago's school system and in housing, and I marched against the proliferation of nuclear weapons. I also worked, very briefly, for a trade union, the United Packinghouse Workers. At the end of my junior year I worked in a mental hospital in CA as part of a project for the American Friends Service Committee.
Source: Outsider in the House, by Bernie Sanders, p. 14 , Jun 17, 1997

Never accept racism, sexism, nor homophobia

It is vitally important to the future of this country and our state that we defeat the Republican agenda, and that we prevent the republicans from recapturing the Congress and taking the White House. That is enormously important. But it is even more important that we as progressives and as Vermonters hold on to that special vision that has propelled us forward for so many years.

A vision which says that we judge people not by their color, their gender, their sexual orientation, their nation of birth-- but by the quality of their character, and that we will never accept sexism, racism, or homophobia.

Source: Outsider in the House, by Bernie Sanders, p. 50 , Jun 17, 1997

Voted YES on reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act.

Congressional Summary:
    Amends the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 (VAWA) to add or expand definitions of several terms used in such Act, including :
  1. "culturally specific services" to mean community-based services that offer culturally relevant and linguistically specific services and resources to culturally specific communities;
  2. "personally identifying information" with respect to a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking;
  3. "underserved populations" as populations that face barriers in accessing and using victim services because of geographic location, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity; and
  4. "youth" to mean a person who is 11 to 24 years old.

Opponent's Argument for voting No (The Week; Huffington Post, and The Atlantic): House Republicans had objected to provisions in the Senate bill that extended VAWA's protections to lesbians, gays, immigrants, and Native Americans. For example, Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH) voted against the VAWA bill because it was a "politically–motivated, constitutionally-dubious Senate version bent on dividing women into categories by race, transgender politics and sexual preference." The objections can be grouped in two broadly ideological areas--that the law is an unnecessary overreach by the federal government, and that it represents a "feminist" attack on family values. The act's grants have encouraged states to implement "mandatory-arrest" policies, under which police responding to domestic-violence calls are required to make an arrest. These policies were intended to combat the too-common situation in which a victim is intimidated into recanting an abuse accusation. Critics also say VAWA has been subject to waste, fraud, and abuse because of insufficient oversight.

Reference: Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act; Bill S. 47 ; vote number 13-SV019 on Feb 12, 2013

Voted NO on Constitutionally defining marriage as one-man-one-woman.

Proposing an amendment to the Constitution stating: "Marriage in the US shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman."

Proponents support voting YES because:

The overwhelming majority of the American people support traditional marriage, marriage between a man and a woman. The people have a right to know whether their elected Representatives agree with them about protecting traditional marriage.

Every child deserves both a father and a mother. Studies demonstrate the utmost importance of the presence of a child's biological parents in a child's happiness, health and future achievements. If we chip away at the institution which binds these parents and the family together, the institution of marriage, you begin to chip away at the future success of that child.

Opponents support voting NO because:

This amendment does not belong in our Constitution. It is unworthy of our great Nation. We have amended the Constitution only 27 times. Constitutional amendments have always been used to enhance and expand the rights of citizens, not to restrict them. Now we are being asked to amend the Constitution again, to single out a single group and to say to them for all time, you cannot even attempt to win the right to marry.

From what precisely would this amendment protect marriage? From divorce? From adultery? No. Evidently, the threat to marriage is the fact that there are millions of people in this country who very much believe in marriage, who very much want to marry but who are not permitted to marry. I believe firmly that in the not-too-distant future people will look back on these debates with the incredulity with which we now view the segregationist debates of years past.

Reference: Marriage Protection Amendment; Bill H J RES 88 ; vote number 2006-378 on Jul 18, 2006

Voted NO on making the PATRIOT Act permanent.

To extend and modify authorities needed to combat terrorism, and for other purposes, including:
Reference: USA PATRIOT and Terrorism Prevention Reauthorization Act; Bill HR 3199 ; vote number 2005-627 on Dec 14, 2005

Voted NO on Constitutional Amendment banning same-sex marriage.

Marriage Protection Amendment - Declares that marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Prohibits the Constitution or any State constitution from being construed to require that marital status or its legal incidents be conferred upon any union other than that of a man and a woman.
Reference: Constitutional Amendment sponsored by Rep Musgrave [R, CO-4]; Bill H.J.RES.106 ; vote number 2004-484 on Sep 30, 2004

Voted NO on protecting the Pledge of Allegiance.

Pledge Protection Act: Amends the Federal judicial code to deny jurisdiction to any Federal court, and appellate jurisdiction to the Supreme Court, to hear or decide any question pertaining to the interpretation of the Pledge of Allegiance or its validity under the Constitution.
Reference: Bill sponsored by Rep Todd Akin [R, MO-2]; Bill H.R.2028 ; vote number 2004-467 on Sep 23, 2004

Voted NO on constitutional amendment prohibiting flag desecration.

Desecration of Flag resolution: Vote to pass the joint resolution to put forward a Constitutional amendment to state that Congress shall have the power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States. Note: A two-thirds majority vote of those present and voting (284 in this case) is required to pass a joint resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution.
Reference: Resolution sponsored by Thomas, R-CA; Bill HJRes.4 ; vote number 2003-234 on Jun 3, 2003

Voted NO on banning gay adoptions in DC.

Vote on an amendment banning adoptions in District of Columbia by gays or other individuals who are not related by blood or marriage.
Reference: Amendment introduced by Largent, R-OK; Bill HR 2587 ; vote number 1999-346 on Jul 29, 1999

Voted NO on ending preferential treatment by race in college admissions.

HR 6, the Higher Education Amendments Act of 1997, would prohibit any post-secondary institution that participates in any program under the Higher Education Act from discriminating or granting any preferential treatment in admission based on race, sex, ethnicity, color or national origin.
Reference: Amendment introduced by Riggs, R-CA.; Bill HR 6 ; vote number 1998-133 on May 6, 1998

Constitutional Amendment for equal rights by gender.

Sanders co-sponsored a Constitutional Amendment:

Title: Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relative to equal rights for men and women. Summary: States that equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Source: House Resolution Sponsorship 01-HJR40 on Mar 22, 2001

Rated 93% by the ACLU, indicating a pro-civil rights voting record.

Sanders scores 93% by the ACLU on civil rights issues

We work also to extend rights to segments of our population that have traditionally been denied their rights, including Native Americans and other people of color; lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgendered people; women; mental-health patients; prisoners; people with disabilities; and the poor. If the rights of society’s most vulnerable members are denied, everybody’s rights are imperiled.

Our ratings are based on the votes the organization considered most important; the numbers reflect the percentage of time the representative voted the organization's preferred position.

Source: ACLU website 02n-ACLU on Dec 31, 2002

Rated 100% by the HRC, indicating a pro-gay-rights stance.

Sanders scores 100% by the HRC on gay rights

OnTheIssues.org interprets the 2005-2006 HRC scores as follows:

About the HRC (from their website, www.hrc.org):

The Human Rights Campaign represents a grassroots force of more than 700,000 members and supporters nationwide. As the largest national gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, HRC envisions an America where GLBT people are ensured of their basic equal rights, and can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.

Ever since its founding in 1980, HRC has led the way in promoting fairness for GLBT Americans. HRC is a bipartisan organization that works to advance equality based on sexual orientation and gender expression and identity.

Source: HRC website 06n-HRC on Dec 31, 2006

Rated 97% by the NAACP, indicating a pro-affirmative-action stance.

Sanders scores 97% by the NAACP on affirmative action

OnTheIssues.org interprets the 2005-2006 NAACP scores as follows:

About the NAACP (from their website, www.naacp.org):

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has worked over the years to support and promote our country's civil rights agenda. Since its founding in 1909, the NAACP has worked tirelessly to end racial discrimination while also ensuring the political, social, and economic equality of all people. The Association will continue this mission through its policy initiatives and advocacy programs at the local, state, and national levels. From the ballot box to the classroom, the dedicated workers, organizers, and leaders who forged this great organization and maintain its status as a champion of social justice, fought long and hard to ensure that the voices of African Americans would be heard. For nearly one hundred years, it has been the talent and tenacity of NAACP members that has saved lives and changed many negative aspects of American society.

Source: NAACP website 06n-NAACP on Dec 31, 2006

Recognize Juneteenth as historical end of slavery.

Sanders co-sponsored recognizing Juneteenth as historical end of slavery

A resolution recognizing the historical significance of Juneteenth Independence Day and expressing that history should be regarded as a means for understanding the past and solving the challenges of the future.

Recognizes the historical significance to the nation, and supports the continued celebration, of Juneteenth Independence Day (June 19, 1865, the day Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, with news that the Civil War had ended and that the enslaved African Americans were free). Declares the sense of Congress that:

  1. history should be regarded as a means for understanding the past and solving the challenges of the future; and
  2. the celebration of the end of slavery is an important and enriching part of the history and heritage of the United States.
Legislative Outcome: House versions are H.CON.RES.155 and H.RES.1237; related Senate resolution S.RES.584 counts for sponsorship. Resolution agreed to in Senate, by Unanimous Consent.
Source: S.RES.584 08-SR584 on Jun 4, 2008

ENDA: prohibit employment discrimination for gays.

Sanders signed H.R.3017&S.1584

Prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity by covered entities (employers, employment agencies, labor organizations, or joint labor-management committees). Prohibits preferential treatment or quotas. Allows only disparate treatment claims. Prohibits related retaliation.

    Makes this Act inapplicable to:
  1. religious organizations; and
  2. the relationship between the United States and members of the Armed Forces.
Source: Employment Non-Discrimination Act 09-HR3017 on Jun 24, 2009

Prohibit sexual-identity discrimination at schools.

Sanders signed Student Non-Discrimination Act

Source: HR.998&S.555 11-S0555 on Mar 10, 2011

Endorsed as "preferred" by The Feminist Majority indicating pro-women's rights.

Sanders is endorsed by by the Feminist Majority on women's rights

The Feminist Majority endorses candidates for the U.S. House and U.S. Senate. In addition to the stronger "endorsement," the organization also determines "preferred" candidates in races where they do not endorse. Their mission statement:

"Our mission is to empower feminists, who are the majority, and to win equality for women at the decision-making tables of the state, nation, and the world. The Feminist Majority promotes non-discrimination on the basis of sex, race, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, religion, ethnicity, age, marital status, nation of origin, size or disability. The purpose of Feminist Majority is to promote equality for women and men, non-violence, reproductive health, peace, social justice and economic development and to enhance feminist participation in public policy. Feminist Majority supports workers’ collective bargaining, pay equity, and end of sweatshops. We encourage programs directed at the preservation of the environment."

Source: FeministMajority.org website 12-FemMaj on Oct 31, 2012

Enforce against wage discrimination based on gender.

Sanders co-sponsored Paycheck Fairness Act

    Congress finds the following:
  1. Women have entered the workforce in record numbers over the past 50 years.
  2. Despite the enactment of the Equal Pay Act in 1963, many women continue to earn significantly lower pay than men for equal work. These pay disparities exist in both the private and governmental sectors. In many instances, the pay disparities can only be due to continued intentional discrimination or the lingering effects of past discrimination.
  3. The existence of such pay disparities depresses the wages of working families who rely on the wages of all members of the family to make ends meet; and undermines women's retirement security.
  4. Artificial barriers to the elimination of discrimination in the payment of wages on the basis of sex continue to exist decades after the enactment of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. These barriers have resulted because the Equal Pay Act has not worked as Congress originally intended.
  5. The Department of Labor and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have important and unique responsibilities to help ensure that women receive equal pay for equal work.
  6. The Department of Labor is responsible for investigating and prosecuting equal pay violations, especially systemic violations, and in enforcing all of its mandates.
  7. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is the primary enforcement agency for claims made under the Equal Pay Act.
  8. With a stronger commitment [to enforcement], increased information on wage data and more effective remedies, women will be better able to recognize and enforce their rights.
  9. Certain employers have already made great strides in eradicating unfair pay disparities in the workplace and their achievements should be recognized.
Source: S.84&H.R.377 13-S0084 on Jan 23, 2013

Enforce against anti-gay discrimination in public schools.

Sanders co-sponsored Student Non-Discrimination Act

Congressional Summary: