Kennedy’s Senate Replacement Called Gay Rights “Frivolous” as DNC Head
The LGBT community knows little about man chosen to fill the late Senator Ted Kennedy’s seat in the U.S. Senate and what is known is mixed.
Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Paul Kirk was appointed Thursday to the seat vacated last month when Massachusetts’ Senator Ted Kennedy died of brain cancer.
Kirk was a close friend and associate of Kennedy, who was the Senate’s strongest champion on LGBT civil rights and HIV matters. And Kirk’s appointment came by way of another staunch gay civil rights supporter – Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick.
Few LGBT leaders know much about Kirk himself. Some remember that, in 1985, as chairman of the Democratic Party, he vowed not to let gay civil rights matters become a priority for the party –characterizing them as “frivolous” issues. In an Advocate story from 1985, what was then the Human Rights Campaign Foundation charged that Kirk was “scapegoating” gays for Walter Mondale’s landslide defeat in the 1984 Presidential Election.
But long-time gay Democratic activist David Mixner says now that Kirk was “instrumental, along with Kennedy, in fighting many of the” hostile amendments proffered by then Senator Jesse Helms. And, Mixner said, Kirk was “fantastic” on ENDA.”
Kirk has pledged to hold the seat only until Massachusetts voters elect a new senator, during a special election in January. His appointment helps the Democrats hold onto an important filibuster-proof majority of 60 in the Senate.
Kirk’s office did not return a call for comment.