Jesse Ventura on Civil Rights

Former Independent MN Governor; possible Presidential Challenger


Don't amend Constitution to outlaw flag-burning

Sometimes, of course, speaking my mind proved a bit controversial. I told the veterans gathered at an American Legion post that I opposed any constitutional amendment to outlaw flag-burning. The point was that we have the freedom to do something like that in America, and the flag is only a symbol. Besides, I told them, flag-burners usually get the crap kicked out of them by construction workers, anyhow.
Source: Don`t Start the Revolution, by Jesse Ventura, p. 43 , Apr 1, 2008

We're losing our rights to the so-called War on Terror

We're losing our constitutional rights because of the so-called "war on terror." It reminds me of that line from the movie "Full Metal Jacket": "Guess they'd rather be alive than free--poor dumb bastards!" Not me--once America is no longer what our country has stood for since 1776. We've gone backwards. When you look at how religious fanatics and corporate America are teaming up, we today are on the brink of fascism.
Source: Don`t Start the Revolution, by Jesse Ventura, p. 2 , Apr 1, 2008

Only governor of 50 to not declare National Prayer Day

I was the only governor out of all 50 who would not declare a National Prayer Day. Why do people need the government to tell them to pray? Pray all you want! Pray 50 times a day if you desire, it's not my business! On the counter-side, if I declare National Prayer Day, then I've got to declare National No-Prayer Day for the atheists. Instead, I declared "Indivisible Day" on 4th of July:
Source: Don`t Start the Revolution, by Jesse Ventura, p. 58-59 , Apr 1, 2008

Equal state benefits for gay employees and partners

The Christian right wing in America is a polarizing force when it comes to gay rights, abortion, and patriotism. To me, these aren't "issues," they are matters of individual freedom of choice. But the militant Christians especially don't like anything beyond their idea of the "normal"--like the percentage of our population who happen to be gay.

To me, gay rights is simple: it's about equality. We're all supposed to be equal under the Constitution, which doesn't say anything about the "Hetero States of America."

I fought hard as governor to get equal rights for state employees who happened to be gay. We were losing some of the best and the brightest to the private sector, simply because they were gay and not receiving the benefits that should be provided. In 2001, I finally achieved this for gay people. The benefits didn't last long beyond my time in office, though. When the contract came up for renegotiation, the new governor proposed a pay freeze--and a cut in benefits for gays.

Source: Don`t Start the Revolution, by Jesse Ventura, p.180-182 , Apr 1, 2008

Civil unions for gays AND hetero couples

As for gay marriage, a woman I met at Harvard said, "Governor, solving the gay marriage question is simple. Government should not acknowledge marriage at all. Government should only acknowledge civil unions." That way, when you fill out the consent form, your sex doesn't even have to be asked. From that point on, you allow the church--a private institution--to choose whether or not to recognize gay marriage. But when two people are forming a civil union, whether you are heterosexual or homosexual doesn't matter. The government is off the hook. With all the bickering and fighting over gay marriage, that's as simple as it needs to be.

I'm proud of the fact that in 2006, "Lavender"--the top gay magazine in MN--put me on the cover and said I was the best governor for gay rights in the state's history. I find it interesting that distinction would come to a heterosexual Navy frogman. Even though I'm sure that the Christian right's opinion would be that I'm completely out of line.

Source: Don`t Start the Revolution, by Jesse Ventura, p.182 , Apr 1, 2008

I'd rather face the terrorists than lose my civil liberties

The Bush administration hasn't uncovered a single al-Qaeda "sleeper cell" yet inside our borders. The only terrorist convicted since 9/11 is the shoe bomber--even though, in the name of prevention, thousands of Arab & Muslim immigrants have been singled out for registration and detention.

I would rather face the terrorists than lose my civil liberties. If protecting our safety means taking away our Bill of Rights, then could I be so crass and bold as to scream "Give me liberty or give me death"? Once freedom is gone--the bedrock foundation that built our country--what's left to stand for and believe in?

The Patriot Act was rushed into law in those first scary weeks after 9/11. Its official title: United and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act." Hence, USA PATRIOT Act. In 1933, Hitler pushed through legislation equally quickly called "The Law To Remove the Distress of the People and State." That has an eerily similar ring to it

Source: Don`t Start the Revolution, by Jesse Ventura, p.271-272 , Apr 1, 2008

The Patriot Act guts the Fourth Amendment

The Patriot Act alters some 15 different statutes, most of which got passed after abuses of surveillance power by the FBI & CIA came to light in the mid 70's. It's almost as if somebody had it all ready to be unveiled, but just had to wait for the right moment--a Pearl Harbor type event--to make it a reality.

What does the Patriot Act enable? Oh, things like a secret court that meets whenever it chooses to approve undercover surveillance on both foreigners and Americans. Violations of various parts of the Bill of Rights, like illegal search and seizure, indefinite time in jail without a trial, seizure of private property. And when the Patriot Act came up for reauthorization in 2007, the Democratic Congress fell for it hook, line, and sinker.

Some aspects give the federal government even broader power than before. The homes, offices, and phone records of Americans can now come under surveillance without a warrant. We can be spied on overseas. The 4th Amendment is basically gutted.

Source: Don`t Start the Revolution, by Jesse Ventura, p.272 , Apr 1, 2008

Respect diversity, both cultural and lifestyle

The next census will reveal a newly-diverse population characterized by widely diverse races, heritage, cultures, beliefs, and lifestyles. Diversity is not something that will happen sometime off in the future. It is the best word to capture the total picture of life right now in urban, suburban, and yes, rural communities across Minnesota. The Governor refers to the Constitution when he reminds us that every citizen is afforded certain inalienable rights. He touches his own beliefs when he observes that “Love is bigger than government.” In other words, government is required to ensure that every person has an equal access to education, and is not denied housing or a job or services because of who they are or what they believe. At the same time, the Governor cautions that the best government protections are insufficient to protect against the pain and inhumanity caused by individual acts of prejudice.
Source: The Big Plan: Healthy, Vital Communities , Dec 10, 2000

Equal opportunity for women; but equal responsibility too

I’m all for equal opportunities for women. Our nation is richer when women can contribute their individuality to the fabric of our society, But I think we get off track when we talk about equal rights without also talking about equal responsibilities.

Our government can only protect rights, it can’t always enforce responsibilities. That part is up to us. But practically speaking, you can’t have one without the other. Women have done a terrific job over the past few decades of breaking down the barriers that denied them equal rights. I’m all for that.

But I hear an awful lot of women arguing for equal treatment, but then the minute the going gets tough, they start hollering about harassment and abuse. We seem to have gotten so overly sensitive about harassment that it makes it look like women can’t handle any kind of sexual overtures from men at all. I think we need to get a whole lot clearer on what we mean by harassment and assault, because right now the definition is arbitrary.

Source: Do I Stand Alone, by Jesse Ventura, p.145-6 , Jul 2, 2000

Gay domestic partnership OK; not gay marriage

I support the idea of a legally recognized domestic partnership for gay couples. There are honors & privileges that go along with being in a permanent committed partnership, as well as responsibilities & benefits to society, and I don’t think that people should be denied the opportunity to achieve these things just because they love a person of the same sex.

It often happens today that a committed gay couple isn’t permitted to function the way a committed (married) heterosexual couple would, [such as in hospital visitations]. Legalized gay partnerships would allow gays to become something they have never become before in the eyes of the law: family.

But I draw the line at calling gay partnerships “marriage.” Marriage is something different. My dictionary says marriage is a union between a man and a woman. I don’t think we need to be diluting that definition just to make sure gays have the privilege of being in a committed union. I think a term like “domestic partnership” works fine.

Source: Do I Stand Alone, by Jesse Ventura, p.141-2 , Jul 2, 2000

As football commentator, found name “Redskins” offensive

Our professional sports are loaded with racial stereotypes. Native Americans have complained for ears that they don’t like being made into mascots. Personally, I think the name REDSKINS is offensive. When I was a commentator, I refused to use it. I just referred to the team as WASHINGTON. The name is a leftover from a more racist era, and we should get rid of it. Can you imagine if someone tried to name a team that way today? Can you imagine if they tried to start up the Philadelphia Dagos?
Source: Do I Stand Alone, by Jesse Ventura, p.102 , Jul 2, 2000

Against funding National Endowment for the Arts

A lot of people view the NEA and other programs that use taxpayers money to pay artists to create different kinds of “symbolic speech.” I don’t think the government has any business using our money that way. If we want to patronize the arts, we can do that, but why should we be forced to pay for it?

Artists who sell their work commercially or who work under private grants are beholden to the public and to their patrons. Not so with the NEA. As an arm of the government, the NEA is in the awkward position of handing out the cash without being able to place any conditions on what it gets for that money, because for the government to limit what an artist can “say,” verbally or symbolically, is a breach of the First Amendment.

And so you often get government-sponsored art that would probably never make it in a commercial venue. You have a right to say whatever you want, verbally or symbolically, but that doesn’t mean you have a right to get a government handout for it.

Source: Do I Stand Alone, by Jesse Ventura, p. 98-99 , Jul 2, 2000

Prosecution and sentencing should be colorblind

Q: Do you support the necessity of changes in arrest, conviction, sentencing, jury selection procedures affecting African Americans and people of color?

A: Yes. We should be prosecuting the crime, not the person. Prosecution and sentencing should be colorblind. When someone is sentenced, the only items that should be taken into account are their criminal record, nature of the crime committed and sentence guidelines for the crime. Race has no place in prosecution or sentencing.

Source: Questionnaire from the Coalition of Black Churches , Aug 29, 1998

Support principles embodied in the Equal Rights Amendment.

Ventura adopted the National Governors Association policy:

In 1976 the National Governors Association expressed support for ratification and implementation of the Equal Rights Amendment, which would constitutionally guarantee full citizenship rights and opportunities for women. In 1982 the drive for ratification fell short, and efforts to initiate the amendatory process were taken.

The National Governors Association reaffirms its support for the principles embodied in the Equal Rights Amendment, i.e., that equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on the basis of gender.

Source: NGA Executive Committee Policy EC-14: Equal Rights Policy 01-NGA1 on Feb 15, 2001

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Page last updated: Mar 20, 2021