Stone on Senator Kennedy's LGBT Rights Legacy
In his dramatic "The Dream Lives On" speech at the 2008 Democratic National Convention, Senator Edward Kennedy promised his party and his nation that "Barack Obama will close the book on race, gender, group against group, and straight against gay," a line that brought forth both cheers and tears of hope from the delegates.
It was no surprise that Senator Kennedy highlighted the issue of "straight against gay," because he was, in the words of Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay rights group, the "strongest voice in the United States Senate for the LGBT community."
In celebrating the "transformative impact" of Ted Kennedy's commitment to guaranteeing equality without regard to an individual's sexual orientation, Jarrett Barrios, the incoming president of GLAAD, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, observed that Kennedy's unflagging support over the years had "helped change hearts and minds about LGBT equality," both in the Senate and throughout the nation.
Kennedy was an early advocate for AIDS research and treatment, securing federal funding so patients could have easier access to experimental drugs and both in-home and outpatient medical care. In 1996, he was one of only 14 senators who voted against the Defense of Marriage Act, which bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex unions that have been authorized by the states. Kennedy condemned the legislation as a "mean-spirited" effort "to divide Americans." It "deserves to be rejected," he declared, "by all those who deplore ... intolerance."