fierce advocates

Ted Kennedy Made Gays Fight for Their Rights Before He Helped. Is Obama Following Suit?


Sen. Ted Kennedy was a very powerful man. It sort of comes along with having a famous last name, but it helps if you’re an elected senator with more than four decades of job experience. His influence was regularly sought after, because a nod from Teddy (or at least a phone call) just got things done. So having him on our side during Massachusetts’ 2007 battle to kill a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage was, undoubtedly, pivotal. Allow us some heavy lifting from Marc Solomon, former MassEquality political director and currently Equality California’s marriage director, who recalls of his hero:

Our cause was lining up the votes to defeat an anti-gay constitutional amendment that would strip same-sex couples of the right to marry. A final vote was scheduled for July 14, 2007. Our opponents needed the votes of only 25 percent of the legislature to advance a citizen-led amendment to the ballot. We had lined up two-thirds of the legislature through fieldwork, lobbying, media, literally everything we could think of. But getting those last 15 legislators-those conservative Democrats from working class Massachusetts communities and a few libertarian-leaning Republicans-was very tough. We needed all hands on deck to keep a Massachusetts version of Proposition 8 off the ballot. We needed Ted Kennedy.

“Could you get me a list of your targets?” one of Kennedy’s key staffers finally asked me. “Don’t tell anyone I’m asking you for this,” he said. He meant it, and I didn’t.

A few days later, as I was doing my rounds in the State House, a bewildered conservative legislator stopped me. “You’ll never guess who left me a message about gay marriage,” he said. “Ted Kennedy.” And then I started to hear similar refrains again and again. We’d get word that he’d spoken to the Governor, the Speaker of the House, the Senate President, the chair of the Democratic Party, asking for updates, strategizing, figuring out exactly what he could do and how he could be most helpful.

In the end, on that July 14, we won. We won what many thought was an impossible victory, by a vote of 151 – 45, keeping our opponents just below the 25 percent threshold. We shocked our opponents. They were sure they had the votes. Just the kind of come-from-behind, unexpected victory for the little guy that Kennedy relished so much.

Kennedy’s influence is certainly not the surprise. He was an operator, an advocate, and above all, a skilled politician. That he could lubricate fellow lawmakers to see his side of things wasn’t even an open secret; it was no secret at all. But it was Kennedy’s M.O. to git ‘er done that is entirely timely. Continues Solomon:

But like a brilliant conductor or a great athlete, Ted Kennedy had perfect timing. He knew exactly when to take an issue on, and precisely how to do it. When it was approaching that time, his staff would talk to him, slip him a memo. But even then, it was Ted Kennedy himself who knew when it was really time. We advocates could get impatient.

But we knew he was right, that it was our job to push the boulder as far up the hill as we could. And that he’d take it on at just the right time, when our collective strength wasn’t great enough to finish the job. He’d think about the issue, roll it over in his mind for a few days. Call confidantes. Ask for advice. Bounce ideas off of them.

And then he’d go to work, usually quietly. Sometimes he’d make a critical call that you would only find out about months later. Other times you’d hear about his work right away, but rarely from him or his staff, almost always from those to whom he spoke.

Might this be the strategy of a certain White House resident? Who we’ll come to thank later? After all, he’s been having all those secret talks with a certain Gay Inc. organization … who knows what’s being uttered under his breath.

Get Queerty Daily

Subscribe to Queerty for a daily dose of #marriage #massachusetts #tedkennedy stories and more


  • dgz

    a tentatively positive article from Queery!? how refreshing!

  • Michael

    Dream on!

    The only gays Obama is listening to…when Rahm and the Pentagon dinosaurs aren’t telling him what to do for us [NOTHING of any substance]…are those humming “WE LOVE YOU!!!” from up his ass.

    Ya wanna compare Ted to Barry? Let’s:

    When Kennedy endorsed him at a special primary event, he mentioned gays in his eloquent statement.

    Then O spoke and he did, too. And all the little Gay Girls for Obama swooned and wet their Calvins AGAIN!

    Problem? The pre-released text of O’s planned speech said nothing about gays. But after Teddy mentioned us, O was Machiavellian enough to realize he had better, too.


  • DC Poster

    Thank you, Queerty, for a relatively positive post. Finally.

  • Jon B

    WOAH… What’s going on here? “Might this be the strategy of a certain White House resident? Who we’ll come to thank later?” Who are you poster? and what did you do with Japhy?

  • prissysissy

    Ted Kennedy might have had perfect timing, but that does not mean BO does too. Rather, it looks like he can mess up big-time even if the stars are aligned. Look at healthcare – despite solid majorities in Congress and his enormous political capital, BO is right now on the risk of losing his signature domestic initiative.

    If the current screw-up is indicative of how things will be next 4 years, we can forget any LGBT-rights bills being successfully maneuvered by the administration.

  • M Shane

    Thanks Queerty for offering some objective information. This started to look like a Neocon loony site calling him a Socialist and a Fascist at the same time for seeking respectable health care and turning the tide on the economy.

    But nonethe less, here go the whiners; if I was Obama I wouldn’t want to do anything for you! Or Kennedy or anyone.
    The issue isn’t gay rights its thatyou’re right wingers.

    I get tired of repeating the same information, which someone should have digested by now. Obama mad it clear agaoin and again that we have got to do the work of holding our legisllators responsible. Again how many people have contacted their legislators who are the one’s who make and undo laws.

    Obama made it clear that he would not be another Bush, overstepping his presidential limits in doing things. Bush is very literally criminally liable for even starting an illegal war
    on top of a rash of other things.

  • InExile

    @Michael: The problem is Obama stands for nothing, he has backtracked on many of his promises and not only his promises to the gays. If health care with the public option doesn’t pass the progressives will stop supporting him. If taking a LEADERSHIP role in passing LGBT rights will benefit him then he might help. The man’s heart has never been with us from the beginning.

  • Michael

    @M Shane:

    It is one thing to have different OPINIONS about what the President’s intentions are, but you are either:

    A willful LIAR

    Or WILLFULLY retarded

    Or BOTH?

    Pick your hat.

    Why do I write that? Because despite what you claim again and again NO ONE is asking Obama to do ANYTHING “illegal” or “overstepping his presidential limits” in relation to LGBT rights and that has REPEATEDLY been explained to you on this site.

    1. As the legal experts at the Palm Center at UC Santa Barbara have DOCUMENTED:

    Congress has authorized the President, via statute, to suspend any law regarding military separations during national security emergencies. Hence, an executive order would not be a matter of the President choosing to “not enforce a law” but an appropriate exercise of executive authority granted directly by Congressional statute. Hence, an executive order would be consistent with, not ignore, standing law. This authority includes the power to suspend laws such as 10 United States Code
    § 654 [aka “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”].

    That statute is Title 10 of the United States Code § 12305:

    Authority of the President to Suspend Certain Laws Relating to Promotion, Retirement, and Separation: Notwithstanding any other provision of law, during any period members of a reserve component are serving on active duty pursuant to an order to active duty under authority of section 12301, 12302, or 12304 of this title, the President may suspend any provision of law relating to promotion, retirement, or separation applicable to any member of the armed forces who the President determines is essential to the national security of the United States.

    Further, per documentation by the Palm Center:

    “Don’t ask, don’t tell” as codified by Congress, grants broad authority to the Secretary of Defense to devise and implement the procedures under which investigations, separation proceedings, and other personnel actions will be carried out.

    No less than the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, as well as 77 members of the House of Representatives—hardly lawbreakers or “right wing“—have asked the President to freeze discharges under one or more of those LEGAL options until repeal can happen. As have SLDN, HRC, NGLTF, Knights Out, AVER, and Servicemembers United.

    2. As recently as June, Senate Armed Service Committee Chair Carl Levin, who voted against passage of DADT in 1993, and has criticized it ever since said:

    “It requires presidential leadership. This cannot be addressed successfully without that kind of leadership.”

    3. You lie about Obama’s statements regarding his role in relation to LGBT legislation.

    Again and again, throughout the campaign, HE promised to take the initiative.

    “Equality is a moral imperative. …And as president, I will place the weight of my administration behind the enactment of the Matthew Shepard Act to outlaw hate crimes

    STILL WAITING … unless you consider a limp press release and a smile-and-run photo op with Judy Shepard placing “the weight of [his] administration behind” the bill.

    and [behind] a fully inclusive Employment Non Discrimination Act to outlaw workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.


    As your President, I will use the bully pulpit to urge states to treat same-sex couples with full equality in their family and adoption laws.


    I support the complete repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. … I will never compromise on my commitment to equal rights for all LGBT Americans.

    Except for that little ole RAGINGLY homophobic court brief DEFENDING DOMA in the same language used to pass it, and its recent supplement which did NOT retract the lies of the first but simply planted a few petunias in forty acres of legal bullshit.

    “Americans are yearning for leadership that can empower us to reach for what we know is possible. I believe that we can achieve the goal of full equality for the millions of LGBT people in this country. To do that, we need leadership that can appeal to the best parts of the human spirit. Join with me, and I will provide that leadership.”

    “America is ready to get rid of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. All that is required is leadership. That work should have started long ago. It will start when I take office.

    Except for that little ole RAGINGLY homophobic court brief DEFENDING DADT

    and continuing to discharge gays day after day … Dan Choi, Victor Fehrenbach, Sandy Tsao, and 376 others since he was sworn in … and counting …

    and refusing to use his legal authority as documented above to freeze discharges NOW.

    If you don’t remember what President Franklin Roosevelt once said to civil rights icon A. Philip Randolph, Obama does for he quoted it in his campaign, saying he wanted people to apply it to HIM:

    “You know, Mr. Randolph, I’ve heard everything you’ve said tonight, and I couldn’t agree with you more. I agree with everything that you’ve said, including my capacity to be able to right many of these wrongs and to use my power and the bully pulpit. … But I would ask one thing of you, Mr. Randolph, and that is go out and make me do it.

    In short, we’re simply asking what Obama promised he would do … and doing what HE asked us to.


  • InExile

    @Michael: Wow, in so many of his quotes he speaks of LEADERSHIP, sure wish we would see some!

  • Sceth

    @Michael: You seem to have a decently sourced post there. Regardless of whether I agree, I like it. Did you just muster that for this one post? Any other Internet presence?

  • Michael


    Thank you, but most was previously gathered and posted here and onassorted other blogs as various Obambots repeatedly autoplay the same programmed mix of distractions, distortions, and outright lies across the Net.

    The only thing that changes is the Kool Aid flavor of the day in the Obama Borg Cafeteria.

  • stevenelliot

    The only “tips” Obama is taking is on how to completely fuckup a political landslide victory……..

  • InExile

    @stevenelliot: I agree with you, we will never know why he has squandered such an opportunity to bring the change he preached about during the campaign. He has literally thrown away the opportunity to carry out his promises with the vast network of internet supporters, a major majority in the congress and senate as well as a public that voted for “change” in a landslide election.

    The only explanation I can think of is his lack of experience ended up creating a lack of confidence which is why we see his approval ratings dropping to 50%.

    I guess the democrats have learned a lesson, they should have supported Hillary for she has experience and balls to spare, and that is what our country needed.

  • Chitown Kev


    well…he may be learning a hard lesson…I can’t figure out why he decided to take on health care so early in his Administration anyway.

    The only thing about the lack of experience thing is this-EVERY new President goes through a year or (in the case of Reagan) two years of simply learning the damn job and they all fuck up in their first year. But fucking up your major campaign schtick (health care-the economy came later) and isolating your base will be hard to overcome even if the Rethugs ain’t doing diddly squat…and they aren’t…

  • me

    Um I don’t think so. He said he’d work on DADT right upon entering office (that was a lie), then said we should pressure our Congress to pick up the issue. When Rep Hasting did just that, the White House pressured to kill the issue. He just doesn’t want to deal with the issue, period.

  • schlukitz


    I guess this is what happens when we send a boy to do a man’s job!

  • Michael


    We shall assume you are unaware that the term “boy” was once applied to all males of color regardless of their age [or the age of the speaker], with the conscious intent of demeaning them through infantilization.

    Therefore, as much as “send a boy to do a man’s job” is an accepted phrase in our society as a comment on someone being too immature or ill-prepared to accomplish whatever, however passionately I might criticize Mr. Obama I would never apply such a phrase to him or any other man of color.

  • schlukitz


    “We shall assume you are unaware that the term “boy” was once applied to all males of color regardless of their age [or the age of the speaker], with the conscious intent of demeaning them through infantilization.”

    You assumed correctly. And this definition from was the contest in which I used the term.

    1) a young man who lacks maturity, judgment, etc.

    And we shall assume that you are unaware that the term “boy” is also applied to gay men who play the submissive role in leathersex and bdsm relationships, among a half dozen other definitions that have nothing to do with “infantilization”. You, Sir, jumped to that conclusion on your own.

    There was nothing racial about my comment and I see no need to turn this thread into yet another racial war as seems to be the want of so many people on Queerty as of late.

    Take a couple of deep breaths and relax, please?

  • Michael


    I expressed no “conclusion” at all, never suggested that you were being racist. I merely FAIRLY drew your attention, and that of other readers, to reasons to avoid the expression.

    In addition to considering an adult education course in “Reading for Comprehension,” you might consider consulting a dermatologist for your embarrassingly thin skin.

  • schlukitz


    I expressed no “conclusion” at all, never suggested that you were being racist. I merely FAIRLY drew your attention, and that of other readers, to reasons to avoid the expression.

    Are you my mother? And since you obviously are not, why are you acting like you are?

    Further, I see no reason for me to “Avoid the expression”, since you are the one placing your own interpretation on it. As I explained to you, and which you apparently failed to grasp, the term “boy” has many other meanings as well as the one you presented me with.

    Will you also caution me to avoid the use of the term “stopcock”, “cock-a-doodle-doo”, “weathercock”, “cock the hammer of the gun”, “cockeral” and similar terms lest someone take offense or interpret the usage other than as intended by the writer or speaker?

    I FAIRLY explained my intent and usage of the term to you. Obviously, that did not content you, since you felt the need to respond in a demeaning, insulting and provocative manner which was totally uncalled for.

    The only thing embarrassing here, is your seeming need to make a mountain out of a mole hill

  • Michael


    I neither am, nor would choose to be your mother. Whatever your age, she apparently indulged you a bit too much for your protestations are, at best, childish, for adults, with adequate vocabularies, understand the importance of avoiding word choices and expressions that can so easily be misunderstood, and don’t resort to attacking others when they are.

  • schlukitz


    Gotta keep stoking that fire, don’t ya?

    You don’t get to tell me what I can and cannot say.

    Grow up and get over yourself.

  • schlukitz


    In addition to considering an adult education course in “Reading for Comprehension,” you might consider consulting a dermatologist for your embarrassingly thin skin.

    The only one doing any “attacking” here, is YOU!

  • Dennis

    Thank you Queerty, this article is of a higher caliber than the usual snark and/or sensationalism associated with previous political posts.

    Ted Kennedy does deserve our respect, he was a true advocate for our community, and for other people in need as well. I suspect he learned how to effectively get things done in D.C. during his many years in office, and thru some trial and error. Here’s hoping the President can study Kennedy’s “Cliff’s Notes”, drop the unrealistic bi-partisan hopes, and make good on the many campaign promises he made to our community…

  • InExile

    @Michael: #16 Ah, don’t think he meant boy in the way you are insinuating, he’s referring to having some BALLS, you know like Hillary! Or a backbone maybe? Or maybe keeping his promises?

  • Chitown Kev


    Now see, you brought up sending a boy to do a man’s job and the idea that Hillary has “balls” and that goes to the whole sexism/lesbian angle with Hillary!

  • schlukitz

    @Chitown Kev:

    “You make the joke, no? Huh. Huh Huh!” – Maurice Chevalier

  • Chitown Kev


    By the way, I knew what you meant, though Michael was right to inform you of the other context.

  • schlukitz

    @Chitown Kev:

    Thanks for your reply and the acknowledgment of where I was coming from.

    You’ve seen me posting long enough on these threads to know that it’s not my style to make remarks that could be construed as racist and I usually avoid commenting on threads where flame-wars over race can easily erupt, as we both have witnessed any number of times.

    The expression I used is as old as the proverbial hills and I have heard it used on the radio and in movies and seen it printed in magazines, periodicals, newspapers and Internet articles hundreds if not thousands of times throughout my some 72 years on this planet.

    Never in all that time, however, have I ever heard it or seen it used in the context that Michael brought to my attention. I would agree that Michael is right to inform me of the other context if, in fact, what he alleges is true. However, he offered no sources to back up his claim that the term is derogatory, especially as it applies to President Obama.

    A Google search brought up some 23,400,000 entries for the old adage. Needless to say, I did not check each and every one of them. LOL A random spot check of numerous pages of entries did not produce one single entry or definition that defines the expression in the manner Michael alleges.

    This is not to say that either he or you are wrong as I do not post on Queerty for the purpose of making anyone wrong. I would, however, be most interested in seeing any source(s) showing the proverb I used in the context Michael explained.

  • schlukitz

    @Chitown Kev:

    Very interesting. Having been brought up in upstate where integration was the norm and where that proverb held no such connotation, I was totally unaware of that context.

    Thank you for enlightening me.

  • schlukitz

    Correction: upstate New York, that is.

  • Jason

    Does anyone realize that Obama has only been in the Oval Office for a few months? The President can’t change things overnight, he’ll probably have to spend most of the next four years dealing with the mistakes of the last eight years. No matter how hard he tries he isn’t going to be able to effect real change in the first year or two of his administration. I wish that America would realize he is just one man, and we have to give him time. Nobody could fix all the problems of this country in a few months. Let’s be realistic here, he’s got so many things to deal with, we’re probably not on the top of his priority list. True we feel we should be, but with Americans dying every day overseas perhaps we should have a little perspective ourselves. There are a few issues that are a little more pressing. I think we should just give Obama some time.

  • schlukitz


    Does anyone realize that Obama has only been in the Oval Office for a few months?

    Two months short of a year, actually.

    I wish that America would realize he is just one man

    Poor baby. Must get awfully lonesome in that big, white house on Pennsylvania Avenue all by himself.

    Let’s be realistic here, he’s got so many things to deal with, we’re probably not on the top of his priority list.

    Tell me, what was your first clue?

    There are a few issues that are a little more pressing

    There has never been a time when that has not been true.

    I think we should just give Obama some time.

    Like, how much?

Comments are closed.