Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders on LGBTQ Issues
2020 provides us the starkest choice in American history: to elect a pro-equality champion as president or to face four more years of a Trump-Pence administration that has attacked LGBTQ people at every opportunity. HRC sent our 2020 Presidential Questionnaire to all candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination. Bernie Sanders' responses are below. You can view more candidate questionnaire responses at hrc.org/election2020.
Question 1 from HRC
In a majority of states, no explicit laws protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBTQ) Americans from discrimination, like the federal laws that exist on race, religion, sex, national origin, age or disability. If elected, would you support and sign into law the Equality Act (HR 5/S788), which would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in credit, education, employment, federally funded programs, housing, jury service, and public spaces?
Support ✓ Oppose
Comments from Sanders on Question 1
The United States has made remarkable progress on LGBTQ+ equality in a relatively short amount of time, but there is still much work to be done. LGBTQ+ rights have been under attack from the Trump administration. In many states, it is still legal to fire someone for being LGBTQ+. Incredibly, it is still legal to deny someone housing or service in the military for being transgender. That is unacceptable and must change. Bernie is a proud cosponsor of the Equality Act and together, we will pass the Equality Act into law to prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ+ people.
Question 2 from HRC
The U.S. Constitution provides strong protections for individuals and organizations to exercise religion and to freely speak about beliefs. But some federal and state lawmakers are seeking to pass legislation, like the First Amendment Defense Act, that would create loopholes that could be used to deny equal treatment to LGBTQ people based on so-called "religious freedom" claims. Would you oppose efforts that allow individuals to use their religious beliefs as a justification to discriminate against LGBTQ people in the public sphere?
Yes ✓ No
Comments from Sanders on Question 2
It is long overdue that we end this form of discrimination once and for All. Bernie will sign the Gay and Trans Panic Defense Prohibition Act, which he is proud to cosponsor, into law and oppose any and all religious freedom claims used to deny equal treatment to LGBTQ+ people.
Question 3 from HRC
Do you believe the civil institution of marriage (with absolutely no requirements imposed on houses of worship) should be legally available to two committed adults of the same sex?
Support ✓ Oppose
Comments from Sanders on Question 3
Let’s be clear, marriage equality is an issue of basic justice. Bernie has consistently supported marriage equality. He is the only Presidential candidate to vote against the so-called Defense of Marriage Act in 1996. He supported Vermont’s civil union law in 2000. He was an outspoken backer of his home state’s passage of one of the nation’s first marriage equality laws in 2009. For far too long our justice system has marginalized the LGBTQ+ community. That will change when Bernie is President.
Question 4 from HRC
New treatments have improved the quality of life for those living with HIV and new prevention strategies can help reduce the risk of contracting HIV, but these medications are often too expensive and too difficult to access for those who need them. Do you support increased funding for HIV and AIDS prevention, treatment and research?
Support ✓ Oppose
Comments from Sanders on Question 4
Bernie believes we can and must end the epidemic of HIV and AIDS in the United States and abroad. The government, using taxpayer funding, developed and patented the research that led to the use of the drug Truvada for PrEP in preventing HIV transmission. That drug is now being sold by the pharmaceutical giant Gilead for as much as $2,000 a month and generated $3 billion in sales for Gilead last year. This is unacceptable. Tens of thousands of individuals with HIV and AIDS are still uninsured or cannot afford their treatment.
When Bernie is in the White House, he will enact Medicare for All, which will guarantee health care as a human right to everyone in America, free at the point of service. His plan will address the racial disparities we still see in the epidemic — people of color who are disproportionately uninsured. We must work to make sure every person can get the care they need, including prevention and treatment for HIV/AIDS.
We must strive toward a generation free of HIV and AIDS. Bernie will set a national goal of eradicating HIV/AIDS in the United States by the end of his first term in 2025.
As President, Bernie will:
- Use federal march-in rights to lower the price of Truvada for PrEP immediately.
- Create a multi-billion dollar HIV/AIDS Prize Fund to reward medical researchers and developers of medicines who create lifesaving drugs for HIV and AIDS treatment and prevention based primarily upon the added therapeutic value a new treatment offers and the number of people it benefits — instead of a system where the market is manipulated to keep out all competition.
- Fight to expand the Housing Opportunities for Persons with HIV/AIDS (HOPWA) program that currently provides funding for housing assistance and related services for tens of thousands of low-income people living with HIV and their families.
- Fight to expand the Ryan White HIV/AIDS program which provides HIV-related services for those who do not have sufficient health care coverage or financial resources.
- Expand efforts overseas for treatment and preventing transmission.
- Establish a Center for Clinical Research within the National Institutes of Health to develop essential drugs in the public interest for public benefit. The medicines developed at this center would be produced directly by the federal government and generics could also enter the market immediately after FDA approval. The center will focus on developing and testing drugs to treat diseases with limited or expensive treatment options, including orphan diseases.
Question 5 from HRC
Even as we experience increased transgender visibility, the levels of violence and harassment transgender people face – particularly transgender women of color – constitute a national crisis. The federal government has a critical role to play in preventing and addressing violence, including: expanding access to critical safety net programs to address issues like homelessness and job placement; implementing and enforcing rules that prohibit discrimination against transgender people by federally funded service providers; ensuring medically necessary transition-related care under the Affordable Care Act; ensuring the safety of those in jails, prisons, and immigration detention centers and robust enforcement of the federal hate crimes law. If elected President, will you support legislation and advance regulations and policies that prohibit discrimination against transgender people and prioritize a comprehensive federal response to address anti-transgender violence?
Comments from Sanders on Question 5
The attacks by the Trump administration against transgender people are part of a bigotry which has got to end. We have got to continue to fight to protect transgender people in this country. There is no excuse for bigotry and there is no compromise on discrimination. Bernie will use ever lever of power possible to end discrimination and violence against transgender people. Bernie has long advocated for expanding hate crimes legislation to encompass LGBTQ+ individuals and protecting the rights of the transgender community. He will investigate every murder of trans individuals as a federal hate crime and upport police departments that adopt policies to ensure fairer interactions with transgender people, especially transgender women of color who are often targeted by police unfairly, and by instituting training programs to promote compliance with fair policies.
He will ensure Fair Housing for All free from discrimination by strengthening and expanding the Fair Housing Act, increasing enforcement, and creating an independent National Fair Housing Agency. And Bernie will invest nearly $32 billion over the next five years to end homelessness in America. He will provide $500 million in funding to states and localities to provide outreach to the homeless to help connect them to case management and social services to ensure nobody is left behind.
He will ensure LGBTQ+ people have comprehensive health care without discrimination from providers. Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All would not only confront the massive health disparities faced by the LGBTQ+ community, it would also cover gender affirming surgeries, increase access to PrEP, remove barriers to mental health care and bolster suicide prevention efforts. Bernie’s plan clearly states that LGBTQ+ people cannot be discriminated against by providers or denied health benefits. And Bernie will ensure incarcerated trans people have access to all the health care they need.
Bernie will advance policies to ensure students can attend school without fear of bullying, harassment, discrimination, and violence, and work to substantially reduce suicides by reversing the harm Betsy DeVos has done to trans students and enforcing Title IX and passing the Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Student Non-Discrimination Act into law to protect the rights of LGBTQ+ students.
He will work with Congress to pass the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act introduced by Rep. Pramila Jayapal to fundamentally reform our immigration detention system including requiring release on recognizance or alternatives to detention for vulnerable persons — including children, pregnant individuals, LGBTQ+ individuals, people with disabilities, and asylum seekers — and caregivers. And he will eliminate discrimination facing LGBTQ+ families throughout immigration laws, including making sure that all children born to U.S. citizen parents have acquired citizenship. regardless of a biological relationship.
And when Bernie is in the White House, he will do everything he can to protect workers from workplace harassment and discrimination. Bernie is a proud cosponsor of and will sign into law the BE HEARD ACT, to expand and strengthen our anti harrassment and discrimination laws and ensure individuals have access to justice. This legislation will work to create harassment-free workplaces, and crack down on companies that fail to address harassment and discrimination in the workplace. He will pass the Equality Act to ensure LGBTQ+ individuals are protected from harassment. Bernie knows that one of the most important things we can do to stop workplace harassment and discrimination is to make it easier for workers to join unions to protect workers from exploitation and violations of labor laws. He will do just that by passing his Workplace Democracy plan and doubling union membership in this country. Bernie will undo Trump’s attack on the Equal Opportunity Commission. As President, Bernie will use executive authority to address sexual harassment. And he’ll raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, enact a federal jobs guarantee, and ensure Equal Pay for Equal Work.
Question 6 from HRC
While all states currently allow LGBTQ people to adopt children, some legislators are pushing to allow government funded child welfare agencies to prohibit capable, committed adults from adopting and fostering because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Do you support policies that require government funded child welfare agencies to make decisions on adoption and foster care based on the best interest of the child, without bans based on sexual orientation or gender identity?
Support ✓ Oppose
Comments from Sanders on Question 6
It is unacceptable that LGBTQ+ people are denied the opportunity to adopt and foster children. Bernie is a proud cosponsor of the Every Child Deserves a Family Act and will sign it into law.
Question 7 from HRC
Bullying and harassment of LGBTQ students, as well as students perceived to be LGBTQ, is widespread. Would you support and sign into law the Safe Schools Improvement Act (H.R. 2653/S. 2548), which would require school districts receiving federal funding to adopt codes of conduct specifically prohibiting bullying and harassment, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as race, color, national origin, sex, disability, and religion?
Support ✓ Oppose
Comments from Sanders on Question 7
LGBTQ+ students have been under attack from the Trump administration. Bernie will advance policies to ensure LGBTQ+ students can attend school without fear of bullying, harassment, discrimination, and violence, and work to substantially reduce suicides by reversing the harm Betsy DeVos has done to trans students and enforcing Title IX and passing the Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Student Non-Discrimination Act into law to protect the rights of LGBTQ+ students. Bernie is a proud cosponsor of the Safe Schools Improvement Act and will sign it into law as president.
Question 8 from HRC
LGBTQ people in many parts of the world face harassment, legal and societal discrimination, violence, and bigotry. Seventy countries criminalize same-sex sexual activity. In up to ten countries, same-sex sexual activity may be punishable by death. Transgender and gender non-conforming people often face laws that criminalize them and put them at greater risk of experiencing violence and poor health. Do you believe that LGBTQ rights are human rights and that U.S. national security is strengthened when we work with other governments, civil society, and international organizations to protect, support, and defend the human rights of LGBTQ people abroad?
Support ✓ Oppose
Comments from Sanders on Question 8
We now have a president who is a homophobe, who is a racist, who is a sexist, who is a xenophobe, and who is a religious bigot. Trump is fomenting prejudice against the LGBT+ and transgender community and that has got to end. We will defeat him and fight to end all forms of discrimination at home and abroad.
Bernie will protect the rights of LGBTQ+ people around the world by ensuring that, written into the core text of all global trade agreements, are strong and binding human rights standards and strengthening the Special Envoy for LGBTQ+ Rights within the Dept. of the State.
Question 9 from HRC
If elected President, will you only put forth nominees for appointment to the Supreme Court that are committed to due process under the law and upholding the Equal Protection Clause for all Americans, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity?
Support ✓ Oppose
Comments from Sanders on Question 9
President Trump’s Supreme Court justices are a rubber-stamp for an extreme, right-wing agenda pushed by corporations and billionaires. The debate on who should be appointed to the Supreme Court is about the future of LGBTQ+ rights, Roe v. Wade, public education, campaign finance reform, voting rights, workers' rights, health care, climate change, environmental protection, gun violence, and other important issues.
Today, the threat to our political participation and civil rights posed by the Conservative Supreme Court is just as grave as the days of Jim Crow and we must be just as engaged. This is a battle worth fighting and one we must win. Our democracy depends on it.
Any person who Bernie nominates to the Supreme Court must fundamentally understand the need to protect the rights of everyone, not just a select few. That means a commitment to due process under the law and upholding the Equal Protection Clause for all Americans, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. That means a promise to defend Roe vs. Wade and the constitutional right to an abortion. It means they must be a vote to overturn the disastrous Citizens United decision. They must defend voting rights. And they must respect the rights of workers, which includes a commitment to overturn the disastrous Janus decision and protecting our public sector workers. And, unlike many of Trump’s nominees, any justice Bernie nominates must loudly and clearly support the original Brown vs Board ruling.
Question 10 from HRC
If elected President, will you commit to making diverse appointments of qualified, openly LGBTQ individuals in key positions of your Administration, to include your Cabinet and the White House?
Support ✓ Oppose
Comments from Sanders on Question 10
When Bernie is President, his administration will be truly representative of the people. We will not have former corporate executives, big donors, and lobbyists in our administration. Instead, Bernie promises that his administration will look like America. That means a diverse set of backgrounds, viewpoints, and lived experiences. That means making sure that historically disenfranchised and marginalized communities play leading roles in our administration. In doing so, we’ll create a government that works for the many, not the few.
To that end, Bernie will prioritize the Office of Personnel Management's Office of Diversity and Inclusion efforts to provide federal agencies concrete strategies and best practices to recruit, hire, include, develop, retain, engage and motivate a diverse, results-oriented, high-performing workforce.
Question 11 from HRC
There are approximately 15,500 actively serving transgender members of the U.S. military, making the Department of Defense the largest employer of transgender people in America. The Trump Administration has arbitrarily adopted a policy that bans qualified transgender people from service and will result in transgender service members losing their jobs. If elected President, will you expeditiously rescind the Trump policy and adopt new regulations allowing open service by all, qualified transgender people?
Support ✓ Oppose
Comments from Sanders on Question 11
The Trump administration has repeatedly shown that it is on the wrong side of history. Transgender people have served and continue to serve our country honorably in the military. Unfortunately, this administration is not treating them honorably. This kind of discrimination has no place in America. The struggle for equality for all Americans continues, and Donald Trump's efforts to divide us will not succeed.
As President, Bernie will rescind Trump’s disgraceful ban on transgender people from serving in the military and issue new regulations allowing open service by transgender people.
Bernie voted against Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and has been a passionate defender of the right of LGBTQ+ individuals to defend our country and openly serve in the armed forces.
And Bernie will ensure that all LGBTQ+ veterans are treated with dignity and respect. All veterans, regardless of their gender, race, sexual orientation or gender identity must have equal access to health care services - especially when it comes to treating injuries and illnesses connected to their military service. For too long, too many veterans have had to fight for the medical care to treat their service-connected needs. And Bernie will end the VA’s blanket exclusion on medically necessary gender-affirmation surgeries.
Question 12 from HRC
President Obama issued a historic Executive Order prohibiting discrimination against transgender employees of the federal government and prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. If elected President, will you leave that order in place and instruct all Departments to robustly enforce nondiscrimination protections?
Support ✓ Oppose
Comments from Sanders on Question 12
Yes. The federal government must be a model employer, that includes protecting LGBTQ+ Americans from discimination at work. Bernie will prohibit the federal government and federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Question 13 from HRC
This questionnaire addresses most of the key federal issues impacting the LGBTQcommunity, but there are many others, including youth homelessness, the ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood, significant gaps in data collection, inability to access to medically-necessary health care, and critically important cultural competency training. If elected President, will you work to address the full range of LGBTQ concerns across the federal government?
Yes ✓ No
Comments from Sanders on Question 13
Equal rights for LGBTQ+ Americans are under attack from the Trump administration. Bernie’s campaign is about coming together to declare that this is completely unacceptable -- we should be expanding efforts to protect equal rights, not rolling them back. As President, Bernie will stand with the LGBTQ+ community and ensure that the full range of LGBTQ+ concerns across the federal government are addressed. When Bernie is president, we will return to a government of, by, and for the people. We're building a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-gender, multi-generational movement. Instead of corporate lobbyists, the people of this movement including the LGBTQ+ community will be at the table with us making policy.
He will ensure LGBTQ+ people have comprehensive health care without discrimination from providers. Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All would not only confront the massive health disparities faced by the LGBTQ+ community, it would also cover gender affirming surgeries, increase access to PrEP, remove barriers to mental health care and bolster suicide prevention efforts. Bernie’s plan clearly states that LGBTQ+ people cannot be discriminated against by providers or denied health benefits. Bernie will ensure incarcerated trans people have access to all the health care they need. Bernie's Medicare for All plan requires an evaluation of health disparities, including racial, LGBTQ+, and geographic disparities, and a plan for addressing the disparities found in the evaluation. It creates an Office of Primary Health to figure out how to increase access to care, including how to train the workforce we need to provide the culturally competent care needed address these disparities. Bernie will ensure all providers receive training to provide culturally competent care. Under Bernie’s Medicare for All, mental health care will be just as important as physical health care.Bernie will close significant gaps in data collection to ensure that we are ending the health care disparities.
And he will end the homophobic bans on gay and bisexual men donating blood.
Bernie will guarantee housing as a human right and ensure fair housing for all. It is unacceptable that more than 50 years after the passage of the Fair Housing Act, people still face housing discrimination on the basis of race, sex, gender, religion, country of origin, or disability. As President, Bernie will create an independent National Fair Housing Agency similar to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau dedicated to protecting renters from housing discrimination, investigating landlords, and enforcing housing standards for renters. Bernie will strengthen and expand the Fair Housing Act and increase enforcement to eliminate housing discrimination which is still pervasive throughout the United States. Some 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ+. As President, Bernie will build nearly 10 million permanently affordable housing units to fully eliminate the affordable housing gap, make rent affordable, and invest nearly $32 billion to end homelessness in America and provide outreach to the homeless to help connect them to case management and social services to ensure nobody is left behind.
Question 14 from HRC
Please share policy positions not mentioned above that you have publicly taken on ballot measures, legislation or non-policy related matters that affect the LGBTQ community, including in legislatures, businesses, the legal realm or the media.
Comments from Sanders on Question 14
Throughout his life, Bernie has consistently supported equal rights for the LGBTQ+ community.
- Bernie supported gay rights activists when they held Burlington’s first ever Gay Pride parade in 1983 and celebrated the event by signing a proclamation officially designating it Lesbian and Gay Pride Day.
- As Mayor of Burlington in 1985, Bernie signed a groundbreaking housing and employment proclamation protecting LGBTQ+ people from discrimination– one of the first of its kind in the country.
- As a United States Representative, Bernie consistently voted against efforts to weaken non-discriminatory laws and rebuked Congress members who made derogatory comments towards individuals in the LGBTQ+ community.
- Bernie voted against Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and has been a passionate defender of the right of LGBTQ+ individuals to defend our country and openly serve in the armed forces.
- He consistently fought against efforts to ban marriage equality, and is the only Presidential candidate to vote against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996.
- Bernie has consistently voted against efforts to deny domestic partners from receiving health benefits from their partners plans.
- He has long advocated for expanding hate crimes legislation to encompass LGBTQ+ individuals and protecting the rights of the transgender community.
- As a United States Senator, Bernie has co-sponsored many bills to strengthen and expand LGBTQ+ rights to ensure equal protection under the law, including: the Uniting American Families Act, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, the International Human Rights Defense Act, the Equality Act, and the bill to designate a LGBTQ+ Equality Day.
HRC works in coalition with many organizations to achieve equality and justice. Please indicate your positions on these key issues:
Question 15 from HRC
Do you support the Voting Rights Advancement Act (H.R. 4/S. 561), a bill that protects access to the polls for all Americans by addressing the modern day challenges of voting discrimination and restoring the full protections of the Voting Rights Act?
Support ✓ Oppose
Comments from Sanders on Question 15
Bernie believes that every American, regardless of income, race, identity, or background must have the freedom to exercise their constitutional right to vote. Bernie is a proud cosponsor of the Voting Rights Advancement Act and the For the People Act. To make sure every vote counts, we will Bernie will restore and expand the Voting Rights Act. He will also:
- Secure automatic voter registration for every American over 18.
- End racist voter suppression and partisan gerrymandering.
- Re-enfranchise the millions of Americans who have had their right to vote taken away by a felony conviction, including those currently incarcerated, as voting is a fundamental American right. What I believe is if you've committed a crime and you're in jail, you're paying a price. But you're still a member of American society and that means you have a right to vote.
- Ending prison gerrymandering, ensuring incarcerated people are counted in their communities, not where they are incarcerated.
- Abolish burdensome voter ID laws.
- Make Election Day a national holiday.
- Abolish the Electoral College.
- Expand early voting and also make absentee voting easier.
- Ensure voting is accessible to people with disabilities.
Question 16 from HRC
Do you support a woman’s right to make decisions about her own reproductive health, including a right to safe and accessible abortion?
Support ✓ Oppose
Comments from Sanders on Question 16
Yes, Bernie believes that reproductive health care, including abortion, is a constitutional right. Bernie has been fighting to protect a woman’s right to choose his entire career. A President, Bernie will enact Medicare for All to guarantee health care as a human right to all. Under his Medicare for All program, the Hyde Amendment is fully repealed, and comprehensive reproductive health coverage is provided to all, free at the point of service, including contraceptives and the availability of a safe and legal abortion. When Bernie is President, he will fully fund Planned Parenthood, Title X, and other initiatives that protect women’s health, access to contraception, and the availability of a safe and legal abortion.
Question 17 from HRC
Do you support immigration reform with a path to legal citizenship for law-abiding residents currently in the United States?
Support ✓ Oppose
Comments from Sanders on Question 17
Our undocumented friends and neighbors have always been part of the fabric of this nation. They are in our communities, in our schools, working in our stores, homes, and fields, and striving to make a better life for themselves and their families.
The American people overwhelmingly support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented individuals living in the United States. They believe that immigrants make this country stronger and contribute to the economy. Bernie believes that it is not a radical idea to enact the will of the people when in office.
Bernie will push Congress to enact a swift, fair pathway to citizenship that minimizes arbitrary cutoffs, fees, wait times, and does not automatically disqualify immigrants for low-level contacts with the criminal justice system.
He will also restore and expand DACA and use advance parole, parole in place, and hardship waivers to remove barriers to legal status and citizenship for as many undocumented immigrants as possible.
Question 18 from HRC
Do you support sensible gun safety measures including limiting access to assault-style rifles, expanding background checks, and limiting the ability for suspected terrorists and those with a history of domestic abuse to access guns?
Support ✓ Oppose
Comments from Sanders on Question 18
Bernie believes we can and will end the epidemic of gun violence in this country. In the wake of the Christchurch massacre in New Zealand, we saw what decisive action on this issue looks like. We must get money out of politics and take on the NRA to ensure that elected officials act on the desire of voters from both parties for common sense gun reform.
Bernie believes we need to enact universal instant background checks and end the gun show loophole. Bernie believes assault weapons and high-capacity magazines have no place on our streets and must be banned. He will also reclassify assault weapons in the same way President Reagan did for fully-automatic machine guns to require a federal license to own them.
Bernie also supports legislation to ensure we keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers and stalkers and extreme risk protection laws such as the one in place in Vermont, which allow for temporary removal of firearms from those deemed by a state court a danger to themselves or others.
Bernie is proud to have voted for the assault weapons ban, against its repeal, for universal background checks, and of his D-minus rating from the NRA. As President, he will stand up to the NRA and get weapons of war out of the hands of civilians and enact the will of the people to reform our broken system.