LGBT Ally Sen. Frank Lautenberg Dead at 89
New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg, a longtime ally of the LGBT community, died Monday morning after a battle with viral pneumonia, according to The Bergen Record. The New Jersey Democrat was 89 years old.
A press release from the senator's office confirmed his death and noted that Lautenberg was the last remaining World War II veteran serving in the U.S. Senate.
Lautenberg had a long history of supporting LGBT equality and was the author and key sponsor of federal antibullying legislation prompted by the high-profile death of Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi, who committed suicide after his roommate spied on an encounter Clementi had with another man. Lautenberg reintroduced the Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act in the U.S. Senate in February, confirms the late senator's website.
Lautenberg was also a lead sponsor of the bill that repealed the military's "don't ask, don't tell" ban on open service by gay and lesbian soldiers.
In 2012, Lautenberg joined his fellow Democrats in the state's congressional delegation unanimously supporting a marriage equality bill that was passed by both the state House and Senate, before Republican governor Chris Christie vetoed the legislation, saying the issue should go to a vote of the people.
Lautenberg was also a lead sponsor of the Student Nondiscrimination Act introduced by Minnesota senator Al Franken, which would expressly prohibit public elementary and secondary schools from discriminating against students based on sexual orientation and gender identity or ignoring harassment based on those characteristics. That bill is still before Congress.
Lautenberg was among a bipartisan coalition of nearly 40 U.S. senators who introduced the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in 2009, a federal proposal to prohibit workplace discrimination against citizens for their perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity. That same year, Lautenberg also introduced legislation to federally fund comprehensive, medically accurate sex education in public schools.
The Human Rights Campaign issued a statement commending the senator's unyielding support for the LGBT community.
“Senator Lautenberg was a beacon for equality in Congress," said HRC president Chad Griffin in the press release. "He fought for justice with more than simply his vote. He knew bullying in our schools is a scourge, and he stood up to end it. He knew that workplace discrimination and hate crimes erode the freedom of all Americans, so he worked to stop them, session after session. Nothing better sums up his undying legacy than his 2004 floor speech opposing a federal constitutional amendment banning marriage equality. ‘When we see things that are shameful we should not be too spineless to respond,’ [he said]. Senator Lautenberg had spine, and he will be deeply missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his friends, family, colleagues and the many across New Jersey and across this country who knew and loved him.”