Statement from President Obama:
Michelle and I were heartbroken to learn this morning of the death of our dear friend, Senator Ted Kennedy.
For five decades, virtually every major piece of legislation to advance the civil rights, health and economic well being of the American people bore his name and resulted from his efforts.
I valued his wise counsel in the Senate, where, regardless of the swirl of events, he always had time for a new colleague. I cherished his confidence and momentous support in my race for the Presidency. And even as he waged a valiant struggle with a mortal illness, I've profited as President from his encouragement and wisdom.
An important chapter in our history has come to an end. Our country has lost a great leader, who picked up the torch of his fallen brothers and became the greatest United States Senator of our time.
And the Kennedy family has lost their patriarch, a tower of strength and support through good times and bad.
Our hearts and prayers go out to them today--to his wonderful wife, Vicki, his children Ted Jr., Patrick and Kara, his grandchildren and his extended family.
Statement by Rea Carey, Executive Director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
"The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force mourns the loss of Senator Edward Kennedy, a true champion of the people and a dear friend to our community. The senator was a hero to many across the country and around the world. He spent his life fighting for justice for working people, people of color, children, women, LGBT people, immigrants, people with disabilities, people living with HIV/AIDS and so many others who looked to his leadership for a more just society. Senator Kennedy was unmatched in his compassion and in his willingness to stand with those who often lacked a champion. Even after his death, his vision will inspire generations to work for the health, welfare and equality for all he so doggedly pursued. We offer our deepest and most sincere condolences to his family. Our thoughts and prayers are with his loved ones at this difficult time."
Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund President and CEO Chuck Wolfe
"Good men serve others, but great men take care to serve the least fortunate. Senator Kennedy was a great man. He made a career of fighting for the poor, for women, for racial minorities, and for basic human rights for LGBT Americans.
"Senator Kennedy's life was marked by generosity and a legendary tenacity that earned him the respect of his colleagues and the affection of the public he served. But he will always occupy a special place in the hearts of LGBT Americans, who saw in him a fierce champion for their full equality.
"Senator Kennedy was a strong supporter of the work of the Victory Fund, offering his time and endorsing our mission to elect LGBT candidates to public office. We mourn the loss of our friend and patron, and we urge good men and women who possess the passion and commitment of people like Senator Kennedy to follow him into public service and emulate his intense dedication to that profession."
Kennedy was a recipient of the Victory Fund's Oates-Shrum Leadership Award, and a champion for the organization's mission. In 2007, he bestowed Victory Fund's Gay & Lesbian Leadership Award on his friend and colleague, Rep. Barney Frank, echoing the words of his brother in calling Frank a "profile in courage."
Garden State Equality chair Steven Goldstein on behalf of the organization:
Ted Kennedy was a hero to tens of millions of LGBT people across America. In advocating for our equality earlier and bolder than practically any other straight politician in America, he made us feel loved and respected in ways that too many of our own families have not.
That, of course, was Senator Kennedy's gift to everyone who has been disenfranchised, disinherited or dispossessed, for whatever reason. If you suffered discrimination, he made your cause his cause. He made you feel as if you were part of his life.
Senator Kennedy was a pioneering champion of LGBT civil rights, including marriage equality. As he said at the 2008 Democratic convention, "There is a new wave of change all around us, and if we set our compass true, we will reach our destination. Let us close the book on the old politics of race and gender, and group against group, and straight against gay."
Today, in honor of the blessed memory of Senator Kennedy, we resolve anew to win equality, including the freedom to marry for all.
Joe Solmonese for the Human Rights Campaign
"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."
Shane Larson, Co-Chair of the Board of Directors of National Stonewall Democrats, on behalf of the organization:
When Stonewall Democrats work to put pro-equality Democrats in office, we do it with the hope that we'll get more allies like Senator Ted Kennedy.
Ted Kennedy was an ally to all Americans, but particularly to those forsaken by their peers for any reason. He fought to bring equal opportunity to the poor, and to bring equality under the law to women and racial minorities. And he was an uncompromising champion for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.
It is the last of those that makes him a hero to the LGBT community, but it is all of them together that make him one of the most heroic Senators in our memories.
And to all of us who have lost an icon and a champion and a hero today, and fear the consequences of his passing, Kennedy's words from the 1980 Democratic Convention are a comfort: "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."
Statement by the National Security Advisor General James L. Jones on the passing of Senator Kennedy
As a young Senate Liaison officer during the early 1980's, I had the opportunity to get to know Senator Edward Kennedy who was then a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Senator Kennedy and his staff were among some of the best supporters the Marine Corps ever had on Capitol Hill. Despite his many responsibilities, he always made time for me on issues of importance to Marines and their families. Always gracious and well informed, the Senator was instrumental in the passage of the landmark legislation known as Goldwater-Nichols and military pay reforms, which ushered in the most comprehensive reforms of our military and defense establishment since the end of World War II.
Senator Kennedy, among the many things he will be remembered for, deserves to be honored for his genuine care and compassion for our men and women in uniform - his tireless work and his voting record clearly supports this distinction. While he never shied from challenging our senior military leadership during hundreds of committee hearings, he could always be counted on to be fair and open-minded in letting witnesses like me make our case to the committee and to the American people. He contributed a great deal to my "Washington education", and I'm sure he is most proud of the contributions many of his former staff members continue to make to our nation today.
Lee Swislow, Executive Director of GLAD - Gay and Lesbian Advocates & Defenders
We at GLAD were saddened today to hear of the passing of our great ally and civil rights champion, Senator Edward Kennedy.
I only met the Senator once, but as he did with so many others, he made an impression. At that time GLAD had won marriage equality in Massachusetts, but the Massachusetts Legislature had not yet voted to repeal the state's "1913" law--the law prohibiting out-of-state couples from marrying in Massachusetts if they legally could not marry in their home states. I introduced myself as GLAD's Executive Director. Without missing a beat the Senator said, "We have got to get rid of that 1913 law."
What struck me about this conversation was that he needed no prompting. The Senator knew about the 1913 law and GLAD's work to overturn it because he genuinely cared about our community. His position on marriage equality was driven not by politics but by his sense of what was right. When GLAD advocated for marriage over civil unions, Senator Kennedy understood that true equality means marriage for all.
Senator Kennedy supported not just the right for same-sex couples to marry, but also our right to be treated as equals by our federal government. In 1996, he was one of only 14 senators to vote against the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which to this day prohibits legally married same-sex couples from accessing federal rights, protections, and benefits available to all other married couples.
The Senator's vote against DOMA was only one of many markers of his strong support for the full equality of our community. We will miss him as a friend, and ally, and as an inspiration.
Remarks by Vice-President Biden on Senator Kennedy's passing
Teddy spent a lifetime working for a fair and more just America. And for 36 years, I had the privilege of going to work every day and literally, not figuratively sitting next to him, and being witness to history. Every single day the Senate was in session, I sat with him on the Senate floor in the same aisle. I sat with him on the Judiciary Committee next -- physically next to him. And I sat with him in the caucuses. And it was in that process, every day I was with him -- and this is going to sound strange -- but he restored my sense of idealism and my faith in the possibilities of what this country could do.
He and I were talking after his diagnosis. And I said, I think you're the only other person I've met, who like me, is more optimistic, more enthusiastic, more idealistic, sees greater possibilities after 36 years than when we were elected. He was 30 years-old when he was elected; I was 29 years-old. And you'd think that would be the peak of our idealism. But I genuinely feel more optimistic about the prospect for my country today than I did -- I have been any time in my life.
And it was infectious when you were with him. You could see it, those of you who knew him and those of you who didn't know him. You could just see it in the nature of his debate, in the nature of his embrace, in the nature of how he every single day attacked these problems. And, you know, he was never defeatist. He never was petty -- never was petty. He was never small. And in the process of his doing, he made everybody he worked with bigger -- both his adversaries as well as his allies.
Don't you find it remarkable that one of the most partisan, liberal men in the last century serving in the Senate had so many of his -- so many of his foes embracing him, because they know he made them bigger, he made them more graceful by the way in which he conducted himself.
You know, he changed the circumstances of tens of millions of Americans -- in the literal sense, literally -- literally changed the circumstances. He changed also another aspect of it as I observed about him -- he changed not only the physical circumstance, he changed how they looked at themselves and how they looked at one another. That's a remarkable, remarkable contribution for any man or woman to make. And for the hundreds, if not thousands, of us who got to know him personally, he actually -- how can I say it -- he altered our lives as well.
Through the grace of God and accident of history I was privileged to be one of those people and every important event in my adult life -- as I look back this morning and talking to Vicki -- every single one, he was there. He was there to encourage, to counsel, to be empathetic, to lift up. In 1972 I was a 29 year old kid with three weeks left to go in a campaign, him showing up at the Delaware Armory in the middle of what we called Little Italy -- who had never voted nationally by a Democrat -- I won by 3,100 votes and got 85 percent of the vote in that district, or something to that effect. I literally would not be standing here were it not for Teddy Kennedy -- not figuratively, this is not hyperbole -- literally.
He was there -- he stood with me when my wife and daughter were killed in an accident. He was on the phone with me literally every day in the hospital, my two children were attempting, and, God willing, thankfully survived very serious injuries. I'd turn around and there would be some specialist from Massachusetts, a doc I never even asked for, literally sitting in the room with me.
You know, it's not just me that he affected like that -- it's hundreds upon hundreds of people. I was talking to Vicki this morning and she said -- she said, "He was ready to go, Joe, but we were not ready to let him go."
He's left a great void in our public life and a hole in the hearts of millions of Americans and hundreds of us who were affected by his personal touch throughout our lives. People like me, who came to rely on him. He was kind of like an anchor. And unlike many important people in my 38 years I've had the privilege of knowing, the unique thing about Teddy was it was never about him. It was always about you. It was never about him. It was people I admire, great women and men, at the end of the day gets down to being about them. With Teddy it was never about him.
Well, today we lost a truly remarkable man. To paraphrase Shakespeare: I don't think we shall ever see his like again. I think the legacy he left is not just in the landmark legislation he passed, but in how he helped people look at themselves and look at one another.