As tributes and obituaries pour in about Sen. Edward Kennedy, his support of the LGBT community has been widely overlooked.

In 2006, when Massachusetts Republicans wanted to pass a so-called “Marriage Protection Amendment,” Kennedy called it “a wholly inappropriate effort to override state courts and to intrude into individuals’ private lives.”

He said, “Gay and lesbian couples deserve the same rights as married couples under state law.”

Kennedy was the original Senate sponsor of what is now the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes bill. In 1994, he was the original Senate sponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Later, he became the first senator to call for expansion of ENDA to include trangenders.

He voted against the Defense of Marriage Act and is credited with leading the charge against the Federal Marriage Amendment in the Senate.

The health care debate in the Senate has been difficult without Kennedy’s presence this summer. Known as the senator who pulled both sides together and worked out compromises, no one else has filled that role.

In 2007, when the Bush administration tried to appoint James Holsinger as surgeon general, Kennedy opposed and eventually derailed the nomination. “The Office of the Surgeon General has become a morass of shameful political manipulation and distortion of science,” Kennedy said.

He quoted a questionable study the doctor had done on the dangerous effects of sex between gay men. The position remained unfilled through the rest of Bush’s term.

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.”

No other senator has worked as tirelessly for the LGBT community and his leadership in the Senate will be missed.

— David Taffet

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