Robert Byrd on Civil Rights
Democratic Sr Senator (WV)
Homosexuality is a sin; no gays in military
In early 1992 I met to discuss gays in the military with members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, including Senators Sam Nunn and Robert Byrd. Nunn, while opposed to my position, had agreed to the six-month delay.
Some of my staffers were upset with him for his early and forceful opposition, but I wasn't; after all, he was personally conservative, and as chairman of the committee, he honored the military culture and saw it as his duty to protect it.
He was not alone.
Senator Byrd took a harder line than Nunn. He believed homosexuality was a sin; said he would never let his grandson, whom he adored,
join a military that admitted gays; and asserted that one reason the Roman Empire fell was the acceptance of pervasive homosexual conduct in the Roman legions from Julius Caesar on down.
Source: My Life, by Bill Clinton, p.484
Jun 21, 2004
Voted NO on recommending Constitutional ban on flag desecration.
The Senate voted on a resolution which would recommend a Constitutional Amendment banning flag desecration (not a vote on the Amendment itself). The resolution states:
- the flag of the US is a unique symbol of national unity...
- the Bill of Rights should not be amended in a manner that could be interpreted to restrict freedom...
- abuse of the flag causes more than pain and distress... and may amount to fighting words...
- destruction of the flag of the US can be intended to incite a violent response rather than make a political statement and such conduct is outside the protections afforded by the first amendment to the Constitution.
Proponents of the Resolution say:
- Fifty State legislatures have called on us to pass this amendment. This amendment simply says that "Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States."
- In other words, in passing this amendment, we would give to
Congress the power that the Supreme Court took away in 1989.
- 48 States had anti-desecration measures on the books before 1989. It was then that five unelected judges told those 48 sovereign entities that they were wrong.
Opponents of the Resolution say:
Reference: Flag Desecration Amendment;
; vote number 2006-189
on Jun 27, 2006
- I am deeply offended when people burn or otherwise abuse this precious national symbol.
- I also believe that the values and beliefs that the American flag represents are more important than the cloth from which this symbol was created.
- Prominent among these beliefs are the right to voice views that are unpopular, and the right to protest.
- I oppose this amendment not because I condone desecration of our flag, but because I celebrate the values our flag represents. Flag burning is despicable. However, the issue is whether we should amend our great charter document, the Constitution, to proscribe it.
- Is this a problem needing such strong medicine? Are we facing an epidemic of flag burnings?
Voted YES on constitutional ban of same-sex marriage.
Voting YES implies support for amending the constitution to ban same-sex marriage. This cloture motion to end debate requires a 3/5th majority. A constitutional amendment requires a 2/3rd majority. The proposed amendment is:
Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman.
Reference: Marriage Protection Amendment;
Bill S. J. Res. 1
; vote number 2006-163
on Jun 7, 2006
Voted YES on adding sexual orientation to definition of hate crimes.
Motion to Invoke Cloture on S. 625; Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act of 2001. The bill would expand the definition of hate crimes to incorporate acts committed because of a victim's sex, sexual orientation or disability and permit the federal government to help states prosecute hate crimes even if no federally protected action was implicated. If the cloture motion is agreed to, debate will be limited and a vote will occur. If the cloture motion is rejected debate could continue indefinitely and instead the bill is usually set aside. Hence a Yes vote supports the expansion of the definition of hate crimes, and a No vote keeps the existing definition. Three-fifths of the Senate, or 60 members, is required to invoke cloture.
; vote number 2002-147
on Jun 11, 2002
Voted YES on loosening restrictions on cell phone wiretapping.
Motion to table (kill) the amendment that would provide that in order to conduct roving surveillance, the person implementing the order must ascertain that the target of the surveillance is present in the house or is using the phone that has been tapped.
; vote number 2001-300
on Oct 11, 2001
Voted NO on expanding hate crimes to include sexual orientation.
Vote on an amendment that would expand the definition of hate crimes to include gender, sexual orientation and disability. The previous definition included only racial, religious or ethnic bias.
; vote number 2000-136
on Jun 20, 2000
Voted YES on setting aside 10% of highway funds for minorities & women.
Vote to table, or kill, an amendment to repeal the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise [DBE] Program, which requires no less than 10% of highway construction projects funded by the federal government to be contracted to 'disadvantaged business enterprises'
; vote number 1998-23
on Mar 6, 1998
Voted NO on ending special funding for minority & women-owned business.
This legislation would have abolished a program that helps businesses owned by women or minorities compete for federally funded transportation.
Status: Cloture Motion Rejected Y)48; N)52
Reference: Motion to invoke cloture;
; vote number 1997-275
on Oct 23, 1997
Voted YES on prohibiting same-sex marriage.
The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA): Vote to prohibit marriage between members of the same sex in federal law, and provide that no state is required to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. Define 'marriage' as 'between one man and one woman.'
Bill HR 3396
; vote number 1996-280
on Sep 10, 1996
Voted NO on prohibiting job discrimination by sexual orientation.
Would have prohibited job discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Status: Bill Defeated Y)49; N)50; NV)1
Reference: Employment Non-Discrimination Act;
Bill S. 2056
; vote number 1996-281
on Sep 10, 1996
Voted YES on Amendment to prohibit flag burning.
Approval of a constitutional amendment which would prohibit desecration or burning of the U.S. flag.
Status: Joint Res. Defeated Y)63; N)36
Reference: Flag Desecration Bill;
Bill S. J. Res. 31
; vote number 1995-600
on Dec 12, 1995
Voted YES on banning affirmative action hiring with federal funds.
Vote to disallow any funds in the Legislative Appropriations bill from being used to award, require, or encourage any Federal contract, if the contract is being awarded on the basis of the race, color, national origin, or gender of the contractor.
Bill HR 1854
; vote number 1995-317
on Jul 20, 1995
Rated 20% by the ACLU, indicating an anti-civil rights voting record.
Byrd scores 20% by the ACLU on civil rights issues
The mission of the ACLU is to preserve protections and guarantees America’s original civic values - the Constitution and the Bill of Rights:
We work also to extend rights to segments of our population that have traditionally been denied their rights, including Native Americans and other people of color; lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgendered people; women; mental-health patients; prisoners; people with disabilities; and the poor. If the rights of society’s most vulnerable members are denied, everybody’s rights are imperiled.
- Your First Amendment rights-freedom of speech, association and assembly. Freedom of the press, and freedom of religion supported by the strict separation of church and state.
- Your right to equal protection under the law - equal treatment regardless of race, sex, religion or national origin.
- Your right to due process - fair treatment by the government whenever the loss of your liberty or property is at stake.Your right to privacy - freedom from unwarranted government intrusion into your personal and private affairs.
Our ratings are based on the votes the organization considered most important; the numbers reflect the percentage of time the representative voted the organization's preferred position.
Source: ACLU website 02n-ACLU on Dec 31, 2002
Rated 22% by the HRC, indicating a mixed record on gay rights.
Byrd scores 22% by the HRC on gay rights
OnTheIssues.org interprets the 2005-2006 HRC scores as follows:
About the HRC (from their website, www.hrc.org):
- 0% - 20%: opposes gay rights (approx. 207 members)
- 20% - 70%: mixed record on gay rights (approx. 84 members)
- 70%-100%: supports gay rights (approx. 177 members)
The Human Rights Campaign represents a grassroots force of more than 700,000 members and supporters nationwide. As the largest national gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, HRC envisions an America where GLBT people are ensured of their basic equal rights, and can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.
Ever since its founding in 1980, HRC has led the way in promoting fairness for GLBT Americans. HRC is a bipartisan organization that works to advance equality based on sexual orientation and gender expression and identity.
Source: HRC website 06n-HRC on Dec 31, 2006
Rated 82% by NAACP, indicating a mixed record on affirmative-action.
Byrd scores 82% by the NAACP on affirmative action
OnTheIssues.org interprets the 2005-2006 NAACP scores as follows:
About the NAACP (from their website, www.naacp.org):
- 0% - 33%: anti-affirmative-action stance (approx. 177 members)
- 34% - 84%: mixed record on affirmative-action (approx. 96 members)
- 85%-100%: pro-affirmative-action stance (approx. 190 members)
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has worked over the years to support and promote our country's civil rights agenda. Since its founding in 1909, the NAACP has worked tirelessly to end racial discrimination while also ensuring the political, social, and economic equality of all people. The Association will continue this mission through its policy initiatives and advocacy programs at the local, state, and national levels.
From the ballot box to the classroom, the dedicated workers, organizers, and leaders who forged this great organization and maintain its status as a champion of social justice, fought long and hard to ensure that the voices of African Americans would be heard. For nearly one hundred years, it has been the talent and tenacity of NAACP members that has saved lives and changed many negative aspects of American society.
Source: NAACP website 06n-NAACP on Dec 31, 2006
Page last updated: Oct 29, 2010