Bernie Sanders vs. Hilary Clinton: which Democrat is more pro LGBT+ rights?

This month is LGBT History Month. Obama’s presidency resulted in significant successes for LGBT rights – take June 2015, when the whole world watched same-sex marriage become legal across all U.S states. The history of LGBT rights in the U.S. is a long one, and it remains an important issue in the electoral race.

Both democratic candidates have pledged to make further improvements to the lives of LGBT Americans and continue the journey towards equality, but what exactly are they promising? 

Bernie Sanders

 Senator Sanders has demonstrated a strong commitment to LGBT rights, but recognises that there is still work to be done. 

A summary of the pledges Bernie Sanders has made regarding LGBT issues:

  1. Have the Equality Act signed into law, that would ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and sex in various areas including employment, public accommodation and public education.
  2. Have the Every Child Deserves A Family act signed into law, that would prevent the discrimination of potential foster parents based on sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status.
  3. Work to ensure that LGBT citizens have appropriate health insurance and appropriate coverage.
  4. Work to reduce the number of suicides among the LGBT community.

On the ongoing discrimination of LGBT Americans, Senator Sanders has said: “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.”

Hilary Clinton

 Similarly, Hilary Clinton has made a number of promises to LGBT voters. While Clinton has in the past been openly supportive of LGBT rights, she was originally opposed to the legalisation of same-sex marriage, until 2013 when she came out in favour of same-sex couples to marry. She has justified her change of opinion saying that she “evolved over time”, and has many times since reaffirmed her support for such marriages.

A summary of Hilary Clinton’s promises to LGBT Americans:

  1. Like Sanders, Clinton has also promised to sign the Equality Act into law.
  2. Cap out-of-pocket expenses for those living with chronic illnesses such as HIV and AIDS (Clinton references the case of the drug Daraprim, a drug used to treat HIV-positive individuals, whose price rose over 5000 percent over night).
  3. Give ‘honourable discharge’ status some of the 14,000 men and women who were discharged due to the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy.
  4. Campaign to allow transgender Americans to serve openly in the military.
  5. Work to remove antigay policies from schools.
  6. Defend LGBT rights abroad and offer assistance to jailed LGBT activists.
  7. End anti-LGBT discrimination.

Like Sanders, Clinton has on many occasions voiced her intentions regarding the issue of the persecution of the LGBT community, saying: “We should ban discrimination against LGBT Americans and their families so they can live, learn, marry, and work just like everybody else.”

In summary…

Bernie Sanders and Hilary Clinton have both put themselves forward as advocates of equal rights for LGBT citizens. Bernie Sanders has been consistent in his support for LGBT rights, and has maintained his position since affirming his support for the abolition of all laws against homosexuality in 1970. Clinton’s views however have not been as consistent, although she is now a supporter of marriage equality and anti-discrimination policies.

For voters that feel LGBT rights is a key issue, it is worth taking Hilary Clinton’s U-turn into consideration. Despite the lack of support that pro-gay rights politicians faced in previous years, Bernie Sanders in 1996 acted without fear or trepidation when he voted against DOMA (The Defense of Marriage Act). This was during a time when the LGBT community were persecuted for their sexual orientation, not least due to the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s. It’s safe to say both candidates seem committed on writing the next chapter in the history of LGBT rights – the abolishment of all discriminatory practices based on sexual orientation, gender identity and sex. Does this mean voters will face difficulty when casting their vote?

This article was written by Kieran Smith

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