Kennedy remembered as champion for gay rights

Wed. August 26, 2009 12:00 AM by Kevin Wayne

LGBT Ally Senator Edward Kennedy dies at 77

Chicago, IL - U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), a true champion for LGBT rights, died late Tuesday in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts after a yearlong battle with brain cancer. He was 77.

Kennedy, the brother of President John F. Kennedy and former U.S. Attorney General and Senator Robert Kennedy, was known as the "Liberal Lion" and was a trailblazer for LGBT rights.

During his 46 years served in the Senate, Kennedy scored a 100 percent rating from the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization. He introduced a number of pro-LGBT legislation and was one of only 14 senators who voted against the 1996 Defense of Marriage of Act that prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages.

Most recently Kennedy sponsored the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, the Senate's first bill to include transgender rights.

Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese called Kennedy the nation's "greatest champion" and said the community's loss in Kennedy's death is "immeasurable."

"There was no greater hero for advocates of LGBT equality than Senator Ted Kennedy," Solmonese said. "From the early days of the AIDS epidemic, to our current struggle for marriage equality he has been our protector, our leader, our friend. He has been the core of the unfinished quest for civil rights in this country and there is now a very painful void. Our hearts go out to the Kennedy family."

Although he was from Massachusetts, Kennedy was no stranger to Chicago. "Next to the city of Boston, the city of Chicago has the closest relationship with the Kennedy family," Roosevelt University Prof. Paul Green told

"Senator Kennedy was an inspiration not only to me, but to all who work to make this country a better place," said Rep. Mike Quigley (D-5th District). "His memory will forever live in the actions of those who champion equality, liberty, and progress. Our fond thoughts are with Senator Kennedy's family and friends today, and we remain confident that, as the Senator once said remembering his brother Robert, ‘what he was to us and what he wished for others will someday come to pass for all the world.'"

"Senator Kennedy's devotion to our country and his lifetime legacy of fighting for causes such as civil rights, education, and health care are unparalleled," said Senator Roland Burris (D-IL). "His life and legislative accomplishments will carry on through those he knew, inspired, and fought for."

At the time of his death, Kennedy was working with the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network to find a Republican co-sponsor to repeal "Don't ask, Don't tell." His tireless efforts in support of LGBT-rights will be missed.

"Senator Kennedy was a giant among our elected leaders, always caring for the frail and vulnerable, always a champion of equality for all Americans and a trailblazer in his support for the LGBT community, for our youth and seniors," said openly gay State Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago). "His memory will live on in all these arenas and now in the reform of healthcare in America."

Kennedy's death leaves a void in the U.S. Senate. Democrats had attained a 60-seat majority. His replacement will be chosen by special election in five months.

Jay Shaff and Bill Pritchard contributed to this article.