This 1995 Clip of Bernie Sanders Defending Gay Soldiers Will Warm Your Heart

October 29th 2015

Laura Donovan

In the spirit of #ThrowbackThursday, presidential candidate and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) posted a powerful video from 1995 on his Facebook page. In the clip, then-Rep. Sanders powerfully defends gay soldiers against former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.), who was later imprisoned for bribery, mail fraud, wire fraud, and tax evasion.

The 20-year-old video opens with Sanders taking the floor of the House to challenge Cunningham's use of the word "homos" to describe gay soldiers.

Bernie: You Are Insulting Thousands of Gay Soldiers

Flashback: In 1995 then-Rep. Bernie Sanders took to the floor of the House to defend the "thousands of gay people who have put their lives on the line" to defend our country

Posted by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders on Thursday, October 29, 2015


Here is one of the key exchanges:

Sanders: "My ears may have been playing a trick on me, but I thought I heard the gentleman a moment ago say something about 'homos' in the military. Was I right in hearing that expression?"

Cunningham: "Absolutely. Putting homosexuals in the military."


Sanders: "Was the gentleman referring to the many thousands and thousands of gay people who have put their lives on the line in countless wars defending this country? You used the word 'homos' in the military. You have insulted thousands of men and women who have put their lives on the line."

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders' historic support of gay rights

This interaction took place a year after Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) was instituted by the Clinton administration. The policy, which President Barack Obama repealed in December 2010, banned openly gay individuals from serving in the military.

Related: What Young People Need to Know About Bernie Sanders

A longtime supporter of gay rights, Sanders opposed DADT in 1993 and was also one of 67 House members to vote against the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which allowed states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages that were granted in other states. While serving as mayor of Burlington in 1983, he signed a Gay Pride Day proclamation and declared gay rights a civil rights issue. Sanders backed Vermont’s civil union law in 2000. The state legalized gay marriage in 2009.