The 1990’s signified the start of a change, regarding how homosexuality was viewed by the majority. But the times were still uncertain, as today’s supporters were convinced detractors back in the days. Clinton, for instance, signed in 1993 the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” decree, meant to protect the gay soldiers and allow then to join the military forces, which previously was not possible. But in 1996, the same Bill Clinton, signed the Defense of Marriage Act that defined the marriage as one between a man and a woman. In 1994, Senator Jesse Helms was calling gays: “degenerates, weak and morally sick wretches” and, 4 years later, in 1998, Trent Lott identified homosexuality with various affections: “just like alcohol…or sex addiction…or kleptomania”.
In these troubled times it was the consistent and determined people, with strong ideas, that made the difference. This was the case of Bernie Sanders, who supported gay freedom in times when others were signing laws prohibiting the freedom of sexual expression based on “God’s will”. “The Bible is very clear on this” Dick Armey, the House Majority Leader, said, in 1998, successfully standing up to his name. But, being one of the 67 out of 409 members who voted against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 was not the first time when Bernie Sanders made his voice heard.
Burlington 1983 – Sanders defended the planning of the first gay parade in the city’s history, against Maranatha Christian Church, who said: “We will express our sympathy with the sick humanity that is involved in this sin, but can, in no way on God’s earth and in light of His scripture, condone or even sit back and not voice God’s word.” Sanders’s answer was: “In our civil democratic society, it is the responsibility of government to safeguard civil liberties and civil rights – especially the freedom of speech and expression. In a free society, we must all be committed to the mutual respect of each others’ lifestyle.”
Not only that but Bernie Sanders’ view on the matter can be dated all the way back in 1970’s, when he published a letter in which he clearly supported gay rights. “Let us abolish all laws which attempt to impose a particular brand of morality or “right” on people” the letter said.
Nowadays, being a gay supporter is no longer as emphatic as it used to be and even presidents and important leaders, like Obama and Clinton tackled the situation in a positive way (although, let’s not forget that Obama was against gay marriage since 1996, invoking his religious beliefs and that both him and Clinton voted against gay marriage in 2012).
But the ones that make history are the people holding to their ideas, like Bernie Sanders, and having firm convictions that it only takes one strong man to change the world.
Now, gay parades use Bernie Sander’s image to promote freedom of choice all around the world.