I've reached out to noted LGBT leaders and activists, requesting their reactions to the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy. Below are some of the responses so far, presented in no particular order. Please return to this post later in the day as more messages come in.
John Aravosis, activist and AmericaBlog
"I pretty much came out, politically, thanks to Ted Kennedy. His staff let me work out of his office, evenings and weekends, on gay rights causes (e.g., DADT, ENDA) while I was still closeted and working for a Republican Senator. They then vouched for me to the Children's Defense Fund, landing me a job there, and starting my work in Internet activism. What I'm doing today is a very real result of what Ted Kennedy did for me in 1993-94."
David Mixner, activist and former Clinton advisor:
"As a writer, words simply fail me this morning. The Senator has been a personal friend for over three decades and I am devastated. Heaven is richer today and we all are poorer. Will miss his laughter, his personal teasing and his joy of song. Today, without a doubt, the world lost one of its greatest champions for equality and peace."
Lane Hudson, activist and blogger:
"Ted Kennedy was an old school politician who was forward thinking enough to have been a longtime hero that championed equality long before many others. I was devastated to wake up this morning to a world without him. This nation and its people are substantially better because of Ted Kennedy and he is sorely missed."
Jeremy Hooper, activist and Good As You
"My first real exposure to Sen. Kennedy was in the early 1990's, when a junior high teacher defined his role in American politics by citing Chappaquiddick, failed presidential aspirations, and controversy. It took me the next decade to fully re-educate myself about Ted's true triumphs, and to realize that those triumphs are the very reason why some conservatives (like my teacher) wanted to mask his worth behind a cloud of scandal. The truth is that our community has never known a greater senatorial ally. And by 'our community,' I mean Americans."
Pam Spaulding, activist and Pam's House Blend
"The lion has passed, but even when ill, Senator Kennedy cared deeply that his legacy as a voice of equality for all will live on in the work of others. My heart goes out to his family."
Peter Staley, AIDS activist and Poz.com
"People with AIDS have had very few friends fighting for us on Capitol Hill, but from day one we had its most effective legislator on our side. I'm convinced Ted Kennedy saved many, many lives, and protected all of us from being steamrolled by the hatred others tried to stir up. He saved us from the worst of others' indifference or bigotry, making men like Reagan and Helms seem small. Who will fight for us now?"
Bil Browning, activist and Bilerico Project
"Living in Indiana, I became accustomed to hearing Sen Ted Kennedy cursed as a 'Massachusetts liberal' more often than praised for the tireless work he did on behalf of the poor, the downtrodden, and the powerless. Senator Kennedy's reach extended well beyond the liberal vs conservative dichotomy so pervasive in American politics; he served as a bellwether for the future of our country's support of the common citizen. Indiana's LGBT community joins with the rest of the nation in mourning the loss of a staunch ally and supporter who constantly fought on our behalf."
Michelangele Signorile, activist and SiriusXM host:
"He battled the right-wing vigorously during the 80s in trying to get funding for AIDS/HIV research and basic care, in the face of a negligent government in the grip of religious extremists. He championed LGBT civil rights early on, and whether it was hate crimes laws or marriage, he was always out front in the Senate and in political life, showing leadership and bringing others along. I'm enormously grateful to him for helping to bring our issues into the mainstream and taking the ridicule and attacks from the far right over the years -- almost daily, from hate radio to the Internet -- because he took a courageous stand. Thank you, Senator."
Human Right Campaign president Joe Solmonese:
“The nation has lost its greatest champion and strongest voice for justice, fairness, and compassion. The loss to our community is immeasurable. There was no greater hero for advocates of LGBT equality than Senator Ted Kennedy. 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."
NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn:
“He has been called the lion of the Senate and indeed he was just that. The first time I saw him speak in public was in the early 1990’s when we were both at a dinner for the Empire State Pride Agenda. As he had done so many times before, Senator Kennedy was there to offer his voice and his support to a movement for equality. And what a voice. He had a gregarious way about him that brought all in the room to our feet and made us laugh; but, when it came to the matter at hand, his thunderous words echoed throughout the hall with an awesome force. It was one of the rare moments that I found myself speechless. To have Senator Kennedy stand with the LGBT community that night so many years ago, and on countless occasions since then, is an honor that has given me an added determination that I will always carry with me."
Rea Carey, executive director, National Gay & Lesbian Task Force:
“The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force mourns the loss of Senator Edward Kennedy, a true champion of the people and a dear friend to our community. The senator was a hero to many across the country and around the world. He spent his life fighting for justice for working people, people of color, children, women, LGBT people, immigrants, people with disabilities, people living with HIV/AIDS and so many others who looked to his leadership for a more just society. Senator Kennedy was unmatched in his compassion and in his willingness to stand with those who often lacked a champion. Even after his death, his vision will inspire generations to work for the health, welfare and equality for all he so doggedly pursued. We offer our deepest and most sincere condolences to his family. Our thoughts and prayers are with his loved ones at this difficult time.”
Mara Keisling, executive director, National Center for Transgender Equality:
"Senator Kennedy's work in the Senate directly impacted transgender people because of his advocacy on our behalf. He understood that equality as a principle was only valuable when it truly extended to all people. But he also improved our lives in other, less obvious ways, like championing an increase in the minimum wage and insisting on the need for fair health care coverage. We will feel his loss, without any doubt, but we will also continue to benefit from his legacy for generations to come."
Labels: "celibacy", activism, American history, heroes, HIV/AIDS, LGBT rights, Ted Kennedy, tributes