I See What You're Doing There

[Content Note: Homophobia; misogyny; rape culture.]

So, there's this meme going around that Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has supported same-sex marriage for decades. A Salon headline declares: "Bernie Sanders supported full marriage equality 40 years ago." Wow! Pretty amazing, right?!

Here is the evidence—a letter in which he details some of his his platform while a candidate for governor of Vermont from the Liberty Union Party in the 1970s:

image of the old letter; the relevant paragraph reads: 'The Liberty Union believe that there are entirely too many laws that regulate human behavior. Let us abolish all laws which attempt to impose a particular brand of morality or 'right' on people. Let's abolish all laws dealing with abortion, drugs, sexual behavior (adultery, homosexuality, etc.).'

If you aren't able to find, exactly, where his support for same-sex marriage is, that's because it isn't there.

To imagine that statement "supports marriage equality" rests on an ignorance about the history of queer rights—specifically that "homosexual activity" was criminalized in much of the country at the time. Lawrence v. Texas, in which the Supreme Court "struck down the sodomy law in Texas and, by extension, invalidated sodomy laws in 13 other states, making same-sex sexual activity legal in every U.S. state and territory," was only decided in 2003.

Clearly, Sanders is advocating against the laws that criminalized homosexual acts, which is terrific, but that's quite a different thing altogether from supporting same-sex marriage, and it's a gross simplification of the history of queer rights to pretend otherwise.

To be abundantly clear, my issue is not with Bernie Sanders. My issue is with progressive media that erroneously proclaims Sanders—a man who has failed utterly to include intersectional analysis in his campaign—more progressive than he actually is.

(Especially when it is clearly meant to be a dig at Clinton, who has a solid long-time record on queer rights, her delayed "evolution" on same-sex marriage notwithstanding. Never mind that we know her opposition was likely a condition of her employment with the administration, as Vice President Joe Biden was roundly criticized for going "off-script" when he came out in favor of same-sex marriage, thus forcing President Obama's hand. But Obama always allowed Clinton the freedom to advance queer rights via the State Department, and she ran with it. Anyway.)

(Also: Have you seen [CN: video autoplays at link] this campaign advert? Anyway.)

(Also: Same-sex marriage is not the only queer issue that matters. But it's the only one on which most other candidates have any position at all. Clinton, on the other hand, has actual accomplishments around employment, healthcare access, passport rules. Pay attention to who continues to pretend those issues don't matter. Anyway.)

But I digress!

So, besides making Sanders more progressive than he really was, in a way that obscures queer history, the thing about this letter is: Juxtapose how we are supposed to receive it as a Very Important Document about Bernie Sanders' decades-old beliefs against how we were meant to receive that troubling essay, which isn't supposed to matter because it was so long ago.

His decades-old minimized terrible beliefs about women are irrelevant.

His decades-old exaggeratedly awesome beliefs about same-sex marriage are SUPER IMPORTANT.

On the one hand, a 40-year-old opinion that doesn't reflect well on Sanders' progressivism is dismissed by virtue of its age. On the other hand, a 40-year-old (alleged) opinion that does reflect well on Sanders' progressivism is more highly valued by virtue of its age. Cool.

I see what y'all are doing there. And I ain't impressed.

I'm not offended, either; I'm just contemptuous.

[H/T to Deeky.]

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