Asking Bernie Sanders about same-sex marriage was ‘like pulling teeth from a rhinoceros’
Despite attacking rival Hillary Clinton for her changing stance on same-sex marriage, Senator Bernie Sanders also once “sat on the fence” on equal marriage rights, it has been claimed.
Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton has faced tough questions over her LGBT rights record, having only openly backed same-sex marriage in 2013.
Left-wing rival Bernie Sanders accused Clinton of “insulting the entire gay community” with her previous stance – but despite being a long-time supporter of LGBT rights, his historic stance on equal marriage is also less clear than it seems.
Senator Sanders defended Pride marches and supported the creation of civil unions early in his career, but he was not in favour of same-sex marriage.
And despite his advocacy on other LGBT issues, Sanders would publicly “sit on the fence” with regard to full marriage rights until much later – opposing the Defence of Marriage Act in the ’90s while avoiding calls for equal marriage.
The Huffington Post found records of attempts to get an answer from congressmen on the issue in 2000 – while Sanders was serving in the US House of Representatives.
At the time, a journalist wrote: “Obtaining Congressman Bernie Sanders’ position on the gay marriage issue was like pulling teeth from a rhinoceros.”
In the blog from 2000, after an early court ruling in favour of equality, it was noted: “[After the ruling] Mr Sanders publicly tried walking the tightrope — applauding the court’s decision and the cause of equal rights without supporting civil marriage for same-sex couples.
“This week we were no more successful getting a straight answer. All we did get was a carefully crafted non-statement statement via e-mail from Washington DC.
“And Bernie’s statement wins him the Vermont congressional delegation’s Wishy-Washy Award hands down.
“Once more he ‘applauds’ the court decision but won’t go anywhere near choosing between same-sex ‘marriage’ and domestic partnership.
“By all accounts the legislature is approaching this issue in a considered and appropriate manner and I support the current process.”
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They added: “That’s as far as Ol’ Bernardo would go. It’s an election year, yet despite the lack of a serious challenger, The Bern’s gut-level paranoia is acting up.
“He’s afraid to say something that might alienate his conservative, rebel-loving rural following out in the hills.”
The author of the blog, Peter Freyne, has since passed away.
It is unclear when Mr Sanders did eventually back same-sex marriage, but the first official record of him doing so is from 2009 – six years after they became legal in Massachusetts, and also after weddings began in Connecticut and Iowa.
His backing came four years before Clinton would openly do so – speaking out after she ended her term as Obama’s first Secretary of State.
Of course, both Sanders and Clinton have far better records than the Republican frontrunners – most of whom are committed to overturning same-sex marriage.
Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio have both backed a plan to overturn the Supreme Court ruling on equal marriage, while Donald Trump also says he’d “consider” doing so.