The gay community has lost a valuable ally in the United States Senate, U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy. U.S. Senator Kennedy represented the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, but was a very powerful and influential figure as the Chairman of key U.S. Senate Committees; he therefore represented the entire LGBTI community.
Though facing medical problems of his own, when I emailed Kentucky Equality Federation President Jordan Palmer about the death of U.S. Senator Kennedy, he had the following to say:
"Senator Kennedy in the early years of his career was 'a man before his time' with his progressive thinking,' he had strength of character, unwavering perseverance, and his death is a loss not only for equality, but our entire nation."
For nearly 50 years, Kennedy served alongside 10 U.S. Presidents, his brother, John Fitzgerald Kennedy ("JKF") among them. Kennedy was best known for his impressive list of legislative achievements on health care, civil rights, education, and immigration. Though he disagreed with church leaders on the issues of abortion and gay rights, Kennedy was a devout Catholic who clung to his religion's belief in the potential for human redemption.
U.S. Senator Kennedy responded to Kentucky Equality Federation's disapproval and condemnation (story) of the University of Kentucky's Dr. James Holsinger (story) being nominated for U.S. Surgeon General (mainly a ceremonial post, but acts as the face of public for anti-gay U.S. Surgeon General.
U.S. Senator Kennedy Chaired the U.S. Senate Committee that refused to confirm him.
Kennedy fought for HIV/AIDS funding, was one of the few Senators to vote against the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 1996, he helped the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act pass the Senate in 2009, and he also introduced the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).
“The promise of America will never be fulfilled as long as justice is denied to even one among us," Sen. Kennedy said when speaking about ENDA. "The Employment Non-Discrimination Act brings us closer to fulfilling that promise for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender citizens.”
Kennedy had recently urged Massachusetts lawmakers to change current laws so the governor, if necessary, could quickly fill a U.S. Senate vacancy as the chamber debates the contentious healthcare issue.
Serving the people of Massachusetts in the United States Senate has been — and still is — the greatest honor of my public life. As I look ahead, I am convinced that enabling the Governor to fill a Senate vacancy through an interim appointment followed by a special election would best serve the people of our Commonwealth and country should a vacancy occur.
U.S. Senator Kennedy died Tuesday night at his home on Cape Cod after a year-long struggle with brain cancer. He was 77.
© Michael J. Thomas, Kentucky Equality Federation and Marriage Equality Kentucky Blogger