Bernie Sanders goes off on congressman for saying ‘homos in the military’

Rep. Duke Cunningham got Bern'd.

Feb 29, 2020, 11:14 am*

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Andrew Couts

Bernie Sanders has a long history of supporting the rights of LGBT Americans, but you may have never seen him do so quite like this.

More than 20 years ago, back when he served as an Independent Vermont congressman, Sanders went to bat against former Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-Calif.), who took to the House floor to disparage a range of liberal causes, including, as he put it, putting “homos in the military.”

After a sharp jab from late Rep. Patricia Schroeder (D-Colo.)—“Parliamentary inquiry, Mr. Chairman: Do we have to call the gentleman a gentleman if he’s not one?”—Sanders took the floor. 

“Now, my ears may have been playing a trick on me,” Sanders said, “but I thought I heard the gentleman a moment ago say something about … ‘homos in the military.’ Was I right in hearing that expression?”

“Absolutely,” Cunningham responded. “Putting homosexuals in the military.”

“You said something about ‘homos in the military,’” Sanders continued. “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—was that the group of people the gentleman was referring to?”

After a rebuttal from Cunningham, Sanders charged that the California congressman had just “insulted thousands of men and women who have put their lives on the line.”

At the time of this exchange, the U.S. had only months before adopted the now-repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that barred openly gay service members from serving in the U.S. military. 

A decade later, Cunningham would be convicted of bribery and tax evasion, and he admitted to taking $2.4 million in cash, trips, and other gifts from defense contractors. He was released from prison in 2013.

Sanders has since become a U.S. senator for Vermont, and he is currently trailing former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic presidential by 5.6 points in national polls.

Sanders holds a 100 percent score from the Human Rights Campaign for his support of LGBT rights and other issues. However, the HRC board of directors has endorsed Clinton for president.

H/T Huffington Post | Illustration by Max Fleishman

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*First Published: Feb 22, 2016, 9:01 pm