Senator Edward Kennedy: A Record of Leadership on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and HIV Issues

Washington, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)– The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, released the following document on Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s (D-MA) historic leadership on issues of importance to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Senator Kennedy has been a champion for civil rights since his first term in the United States Senate in 1962. Over the years, Ted Kennedy has supported legislation that promotes equal rights and has fought closed-minded and discriminatory measures. Senator Kennedy has been an unwavering supporter of the LGBT community, leading the charge on important legislation like the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act and forcefully opposing discriminatory proposals, including the Defense of Marriage Act and the Federal Marriage Amendment. Senator Kennedy has received a perfect 100% on all of HRC’s congressional scorecards (101st Congress-110th Congress).

Earlier today, the Human Rights Campaign issued the following statement today on the passing of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA).

"The nation has lost its greatest champion and strongest voice for justice, fairness, and compassion," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. "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."

In 2008, Senator Kennedy delivered an impassioned speech to the Board of the Human Rights Campaign regarding his support for LGBT issues:

For further information regarding Senator Kennedy’s long record of support and leadership on LGBT issues, please contact Trevor Thomas, Deputy Communications Director of the Human Rights Campaign, at 202-216-1547 or at [email protected].

Senator Kennedy’s Support for Equality


  • Long-standing co-sponsor of the Early Treatment for HIV Act (ETHA), which would provide states the option of expanding Medicaid coverage to low-income people living with HIV.
  • Co-sponsored the Ryan White CARE Act. Passed in 1990 and reauthorized in 2006, the CARE Act is the largest federally funded program for people living with HIV/AIDS.
  • Co-sponsored a 1996 bill to reverse the discharge of HIV-positive members of the Armed Forces.
  • Opposed a 1995 amendment to the CARE Act to cut off funding to local gay community health centers that provide care to individuals with HIV/AIDS.
  • In 1994, took the lead defeating a proposed amendment requiring written parental consent before unemancipated minors could receive condoms or other contraceptives through any program that receives federal funds.
  • Opposed a 1991 amendment to allow health care professionals to test patients for HIV without their consent before invasive medical procedures.
  • Opposed a 1991 amendment providing for criminal penalties for health care providers who know they have HIV and perform invasive medical procedures without notifying patients.
  • Opposed a 1990 amendment to criminalize blood donation by HIV-positive individuals.
  • Opposed a 1990 amendment prohibiting needle exchange programs.
  • Opposed a 1990 amendment to the Americans with Disabilities Act, which would have allowed HIV-infected people to be removed from food-handling positions.
  • Supported passage of a bill to modify the 1990 Budget Agreement to shift funds from defense to domestic spending, including HIV/AIDS research.
  • Supported the Americans with Disabilities Act which bars discrimination on the basis of disability, including HIV status.

Hate Crimes

  • Had been a co-sponsor of every piece of hate crimes legislation covering sexual orientation or gender identity considered by the Senate, including the 2009 Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
  • Co-sponsored the 1990 Hate Crime Statistics Act, which requires the Department of Justice to acquire data on crimes that show evidence of prejudice based on a number of characteristics, including sexual orientation.
  • Opposed an amendment to the Hate Crimes Statistics Act that would have stated that "the homosexual movement threatens the strength and survival of the American family" and "state sodomy laws should be enforced."


  • Long-standing co-sponsor of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), which would eliminate discrimination in the immigration laws by permitting permanent partners of United States citizens and lawful permanent residents to obtain lawful permanent resident status in the same manner as spouses of citizens and lawful permanent residents.


  • Co-sponsor of the Tax Equity for Domestic Partner and Health Plan Beneficiaries Act, which would end the unequal taxation of benefits provided for domestic partners and other non-spouse beneficiaries under employers’ health plans.
  • Opposed attempts in 1992 to restrict funding for the implementation of the District of Columbia’s Health Care Benefits Expansion Act. The Act provides District government employees the opportunity to purchase health coverage for their domestic partners.


  • Supported repeal of the discriminatory "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" statute.
  • Supported an amendment in 1993 to prevent codification of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell".


  • Supported marriage equality.
  • Opposed the 2004 Federal Marriage Amendment and the 2006 Marriage Protection Amendment.
  • Opposed the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).


  • Had been the lead sponsor of each Employment Non-Discrimination Act introduced in the Senate.
  • Voted for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act when it was considered by the Senate in 1996.
  • Co-sponsored a 2003 resolution adding sexual orientation to the nondiscrimination provisions of the Senate Rules (S. Res. 294).
  • Voluntarily adopted a written policy for his Senate office in 1995 indicating that sexual orientation is not a factor in employment decisions, and added gender identity to that policy in 2004.
  • Opposed a 1990 amendment to allow organizations that work with children in the District of Columbia to lawfully discriminate against individuals based on sexual orientation.


  • Opposed a 1994 amendment to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to prohibit any federal money from going to a school with "any program or activity, which directly or indirectly, has the purpose or effect of encouraging or supporting homosexuality as a positive lifestyle alternative."
  • Opposed a 1989 amendment which sought to restrict schools from using materials that "promote homosexuality" or state that homosexuality is "normal, natural, or healthy."

In the Words of Senator Ted Kennedy:

"No member of the LGBT community should be terrified to walk down the street for fear of hateful violence. Hate crimes perpetrators must not be allowed to place our communities in fear." (Statement on Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, 2009)

"Hate crimes are a form of domestic terrorism. They send the poisonous message that some Americans deserve to be victimized solely because of who they are" (Statement on hate crimes, 2007)

"America stands for justice for all. Congress must make clear that when we say "all" we mean all. America will never be America until we do."(Statement on ENDA, 2007)

"It is wrong for our civil laws to deny any American the basic right to be part of a family, to have loved ones with whom to build a secure future and share life’s joys and tears, and to be free from the stain of bigotry and discrimination." (Statement on the Federal Marriage Amendment, 2006)

"While we have come a long way, we still face major challenges in responding to this devastating disease in communities across the country… [N]o state by itself can provide the significant resources to help persons living with HIV disease obtain the medical and support services they need. The Ryan White CARE Act is indispensible…We know that the CARE Act has made a difference not only in the lives of persons with HIV/AIDS, but also in the lives of countless loved ones who have seen despair turn to hope through the support of CARE Act services." (Statement on the Ryan White CARE Act Reauthorization, 2000)

"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. We’ve rejected that tactic before, and I’m hopeful that we will do so again. I’m also hopeful that many of our Republican colleagues – those with whom we’ve worked over the years on a bipartisan basis to expand and defend the civil rights of gay and straight Americans alike – will join us in rejecting this divisive effort." (Statement on the Federal Marriage Amendment, 2004)

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.