Salon Questions Bernie Sanders’ Marriage Record

Bernie Sanders regularly touts himself as one of the first and most vigorous supporters of  marriage equality. And compared to Hillary Clinton’s relatively recent evolution, he’s right. But as Salon points out, Sanders too took a while to get there. Mark David Stern writes:

In 2006, he took a stand against same-sex marriage in Vermont, stating that he instead endorsed civil unions. Sanders told reporters that he was “comfortable” with civil unions, not full marriage equality. (To justify his stance, Sanders complained that a battle for same-sex marriage would be too “divisive.”) At the time, he also opposed a federal anti-gay-marriage amendment—but so did his Republican opponent for the Senate seat, Richard Tarrant, who also supported civil unions. With a wide lead in the polls and little at stake, Sanders declined to differentiate himself from his opponent by taking the lead on gay rights.

Sanders’ exaggeration of his marriage equality record is strange and unwise. If Sanders were honest about his evolution—and, yes, it was an evolution—then he could still brag about supporting marriage equality long before his chief primary rival. Instead, he has attempted to reframe his somewhat tepid support as vociferous and unabating. The LGBTQ community can surely forgive Sanders’ less-than-spotless record on gay rights—but that process can only begin once he’s honest about it. And in the Democratic candidates’ race to secure the gay community’s vote, honesty has been in surprisingly short supply.

I’m not so sure that a “who got there first” contest is all that important when both 2016 Democratic leaders are now fully on board. But it is worthwhile not to allow history to be rewritten.