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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:
  1. the flag of the US is a unique symbol of national unity...
  2. the Bill of Rights should not be amended in a manner that could be interpreted to restrict freedom...
  3. abuse of the flag causes more than pain and distress... and may amount to fighting words...
  4. 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.
Reference: Flag Desecration Amendment; Bill S.J.Res.12 ; vote number 2006-189 on Jun 27, 2006

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.
Reference: Bill S.625 ; 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.
Reference: Bill S1510 ; 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.
Reference: Bill S.2549 ; 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'
Reference: Bill S.1173 ; 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; Bill S.1173 ; 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.'
Reference: 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.
Reference: 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

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.

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):

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):

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

Other candidates on Civil Rights: Robert Byrd on other issues:
WV Gubernatorial:
Joe Manchin III
WV Senatorial:
Carte Goodwin
Joe Manchin III
John Raese
John Rockefeller
Shelley Moore Capito

Newly appointed in 2009;
special election in 2010:

DE:Kaufman (D)
CO:Bennet (D)
IL:Burris (D)
MA:Brown (R)
NY:Gillibrand (D)

Announced retirement as of 2010:
CT:Dodd(D)
DE:Kaufman(D)
FL:Martinez (R)
FL:LeMieux(R)
IL:Burris(D)
IN:Bayh(D)
KS:Brownback(R)
KY:Bunning(R)
MO:Bond(R)
ND:Dorgan(D)
NH:Gregg(R)
OH:Voinovich(R)
PA:Specter(R)
UT:Bennett(R)
WV:Byrd(D)
WV:Goodwin(D)


Senate races in 2010:
AK:Miller(R) vs.McAdams(D) vs.Murkowski(I)
AL:Shelby(R) vs.Barnes(D)
AR:Lincoln(D) vs.Boozman(R)
AZ:McCain(R) vs.Glassman(D)
CA:Boxer(D) vs.Fiorina(R) vs.Lightfoot(L)
CO:Bennet(D) vs.Buck(R)
CT:Blumenthal(D) vs.McMahon(R)
DE:Coons(D) vs.O`Donnell(R)
FL:Rubio(R) vs.Crist(I) vs.Meek(D) vs.DeCastro(C) vs.Snitker(L)
GA:Isakson(R) vs.Thurmond(D)
HI:Inouye(D) vs.Cavasso(R)
IA:Grassley(R) vs.Conlin(D)
ID:Crapo(R) vs.Sullivan(D)
IL:Giannoulias(D) vs.Kirk(R)
IN:Ellsworth(D) vs.Coats(R)
KS:Johnston(D) vs.Moran(R) vs.Bellis(Rfm)
KY:Conway(D) vs.Paul(R)
LA:Vitter(R) vs.Melancon(D)
MD:Mikulski(D) vs.Wargotz(R)
MO:Carnahan(R) vs.Blunt(D)
NC:Burr(R) vs.Marshall(D)
ND:Potter(D) vs.Hoeven(R)
NH:Ayotte(R) vs.Hodes(D)
NV:Reid(D) vs.Angle(R)
NY6:Schumer(D) vs.Townsend(R)
NY2:Gillibrand(D) vs.DioGuardi(R)
OH:Fisher(R) vs.Portman(D) vs.Deaton(C)
OK:Coburn(R) vs.Myles(D)
OR:Wyden(D) vs.Huffman(R)
PA:Toomey(R) vs.Sestak(D)
SC:DeMint(R) vs.Greene(D)
SD:Thune(R) unopposed
UT:Lee(R) vs.Granato(D)
VT:Leahy(D) vs.Britton(R) vs.Freilich(I)
WA:Murray(D) vs.Rossi(R)
WI:Feingold(D) vs.Johnson(D)
WV:Manchin(D) vs.Raese(R)
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Page last updated: Oct 29, 2010