Sen. Edward Kennedy (1932-2009)
August 26th, 2009
“For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.”
Sen. Edward “Ted” Kennedy, the last surviving brother of the Kennedy dynasty, died last night in his home at Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, after more than a year-long battle with brain cancer. He was 77. His family released a statement announcing his death:
Edward M. Kennedy — the husband, father, grandfather, brother and uncle we loved so deeply — died late Tuesday night at home in Hyannis Port.
We’ve lost the irreplaceable center of our family and joyous light in our lives, but the inspiration of his faith, optimism, and perseverance will live on in our hearts forever.
We thank everyone who gave him care and support over this last year, and everyone who stood with him for so many years in his tireless march for progress toward justice, fairness and opportunity for all.
He loved this country and devoted his life to serving it.
He always believed that our best days were still ahead, but it’s hard to imagine any of them without him.
Like many great men, Ted Kennedy was himself a bundle of contradictions. His personal life was touched by tragedies and failures, but he achieved greatness by transcending those setbacks in the service of his country. A man of privilege, he was a staunch supporter of the downtrodden, including the LGBT community when there were precious few allies in Congress. He was an early proponent of funding for HIV/AIDS research and care in the 1980s, battling conservative religious hostility and White House indifference to the emerging epidemic. In the early 1990’s he became an early supporter of gay rights legislation and voted to strip “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” from the National Defense Authorization Act in 1993. He stood up as one of only fourteen Senators to vote against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996. During the 2004 debate on a proposed federal constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, Kennedy said:
“We all know what this issue is about. It’s not about how to protect the sanctity of marriage, or how to deal with activist judges. It’s about politics and an attempt to drive a wedge between one group of citizens and the rest of the country, solely for partisan advantage … The Constitution has never been used as a tool to entrench currently popular views at the expense of an unpopular minority – and it should not be used that way now.”
In 2007, Sen. Kennedy grilled President George Bush’s anti-gay nominee for Surgeon General, Dr. James Holsinger about a 1991 paper Holsinger wrote about the “Pathophysiology of Male Homosexuality.” During the confirmation hearing, Kennedy blasted the nominee for the paper’s “unscientific, biased, and incredibly poor scholarship.” Holsinger was never confirmed for the position.
More recently, Ted was the chief sponsor of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act and the fully-inclusive Employment Non-Descrimination Act. Despite his illness, he was working on building support for repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Kennedy received the nation’s highest honor in July when President Barack Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Pres. Barack Obama today praised Kennedy as “the greatest United States Senator of our time.” Sen. Harry Ried, Senate Majority Leader, said that we have lost our nation’s patriarch. With Kennedy’s passing, the Senate has lost it’s great Liberal Lion, and the LGBT community has lost a valued friend.