Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersPress: Hillary's doomed bid Pelosi: 'Of course' Dems can be against abortion Kasich: 'I think political parties are on their way out' MORE (I-Vt.) said Saturday he has been waiting for the nation to catch up to his support for same-sex marriage.
Sanders’ remarks come a day after Friday’s landmark 5-4 Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide.
He argued he was well ahead of the historic decision, unlike Hillary Clinton, his main rival for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.
“Back in 1996, that was a tough vote,” Sanders said of his opposition to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
“Not too many people voted against it, but I did,” he told listeners in Nashua, N.H.
Sanders at the time served in the House of Representatives, which voted 342-67 in favor of DOMA. The Senate voted 85-14 in favor, before former President Bill Clinton signed it into law.
“That was an anti-gay marriage piece of legislation,” he added of the law that defined marriage at the federal level as the coupling of one man and one woman.
Sanders on Saturday praised Americans for creating greater opportunities for same-sex couples. Friday’s Supreme Court ruling, he charged, was not possible without national pressure for gay rights.
“No one here should think for one second this starts with the Supreme Court,” Sanders said.
“It starts at the grassroots level in all 50 states,” he said. “The American people want to end discrimination in all its forms.”
“Because of the decency of the American people, because of the strength of the gay rights movement, we have changed consciousness in this country,” Sanders added.
The Vermont lawmaker criticized conservatives who reject same-sex marriage on religious grounds.
“We disagree with right-wing Republicans’ definition of family values,” Sanders said. “They think that family values are opposition to gay marriage and gay rights.”
The 2016 White House hopeful also took aim at Wall Street and wealthy special interests.
“The message we are sending to the billionaire class is that your greed has got to end,” Sanders said of his presidential campaign.
“You cannot take advantage of all the benefits of America without accepting all the responsibilities of America,” he said. “That, to me, is not democracy.”
Sanders said the rich and powerful had created an economic system with fundamental flaws in its treatment of everyday Americans.
“In America today, we have more income and wealth inequality than any other major industrialized country on Earth,” he said.
“Today, the top one tenth of 1 percent owns almost as much one wealth as the bottom 90 percent,” Sanders said.
“That type of economy is immoral, it is unsustainable and it is un-American,” Sanders added. “Together we have to change it.”
Sanders formally launched his presidential campaign May 26 in Burlington, Vt.
He has since portrayed himself as a champion of progressive ideas to the left of Clinton, the heavy favorite for the Democratic coronation next year.
- Updated at 12:03 p.m.
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