This weekend, the ground at Arlington National Cemetery was disturbed to bring another member of the Kennedy family to rest. The week has been filled with tributes to the life of Senator Edward Kennedy, and the weekend, a gloomy one for Boston, has been made slightly dimmer with the notion that Monday morning, when the world goes back to reality, it will be to a world without Ted Kennedy.
Ted Kennedy was not a surprising figure. He was larger than life; especially to someone who grew up just outside Boston. As the product of Republican parents (though I successfully converted my mother to the Blue side before her death in 2008), I rarely heard a good thing about Ted Kennedy growing up. Luckily, thanks to my own curiosity and with a little help from the blossoming media of the early 1990s, I too formed my own obsession with the Kennedy clan.
Senator Kennedy served Massachusetts for 47 years on Capitol Hill. In those 47 years, Kennedy reached out to families of fallen soldiers in Vietnam and more recently, the Middle East. He fought for universal health care until his dying day, sending the message loud and clear to Washington and back home that though he may not be present, he would not truly be at rest unless equal health coverage for all was passed. But most of all, especially to me, Senator Ted Kennedy battled on for decades to fight for the rights of the GLBT community. Before "GLBT" even had a meaning, he was standing with us, and continued to keep us in his main set of principles right up until the end.
Though I make my way writing about love, often enough in the venue of gay rights it is easy to fall into or severely out of love with a politician based on the swagger of his personal platform and the volume of his voice in heated discussions. We are a minority worth fighting for, and we need all the help we can get. Knowing that a sector of my life would be an uphill battle, I didn't just respect Ted Kennedy, I fell in love with mostly everything he stood for. Whether it was taking on conservative dinosaurs like Jesse Helms in the early days of AIDS, or more recently championing to set a precedent of equal marriage rights in Massachusetts, Kennedy acted as the hero, fighting for a minority in our society that didn't yet receive fair treatment.
In the 1990's, after meeting Victoria Reggie, the love of his life, Ted became the most grounded of legislators. He earned his chops standing on the furthest left of the liberal platform while constantly maintaining his doctrine of fighting for all that is fair in human rights. In 1996, he voted against the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), claiming it was an attack on the gay population. Though it may have been a decade too early to actually stand up for gay marriage, the message was clear that he was there to fight for our rights.
Eventually, Senator Kennedy became a proponent of gay marriage, and kept his distinction of being a champion for GLBT rights and equal rights as a whole. So, while the love of his life, Vicki, was sobbing openly with a stressed and empty look on her face, I too sobbed. She was mourning her true love, the man who made it possible for so many other couples to eventually openly show the same emotion. She lost her husband, and we lost our friend.
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