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Topics In the News
Senator Daniel Inouye, GLBTQ Ally, Dead at 88
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 12/18/12
Last updated on: 12/18/12
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Senator Daniel Inouye, who died on December 17, 2012, in Washington, D.C. is remembered for his long service in Congress and for his stalwart support of glbtq rights. He was the second-longest serving U.S. Senator in American history. He served as Hawaii's representative in the U.S. House of Representatives upon its admission to the union in 1959, and then as one of its two senators since 1963. Elected President Pro Tempore of the U.S. Senate in 2010 (and therefore third in the order of succession to the presidency of the United States), he was the highest ranking Asian American in U.S. history.

He died of respiratory complication at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. According to his office, his last word was, appropriately for someone so closely associated with Hawaii, "Aloha."

Inouye received the Medal of Honor for his heroism in World War II. He lost his right arm to a German hand grenade after being shot in the stomach while fighting in Italy.

Even as he rose to become one of the most powerful members of the Senate, he never, as John Nichols notes in The Nation "stopped confronting power on behalf of the rights of people of color, people with disabilities, women, lesbians and gays and political dissenters to equal justice and equal opportunity. A modest man who served in the Senate for more than fifty years, Inouye was not always accorded proper recognition of his historic advocacy on behalf of civil rights and civil liberties. But that is the error of those who underestimate Inouye, not of the senator."

As Justin Snow observes in MetroWeekly, Senator Inouye was a reliable and principled supporter of glbtq rights throughout his political career.

In 1996, he was one of only 14 senators to vote against the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). He voted against the federal constitutional amendment submitted by George W. Bush that would have banned same-sex marriage. He was a co-sponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. He was one of the Senate's most articulate advocates of the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

A supporter of the repeal of DOMA, Inouye praised President Barack Obama's support for marriage equality in May 2012. At that time, he issued the following statement: "How can we call ourselves the land of the free, if we do not permit people who love one another to get married? I look forward to working with the President to ensure his position on marriage equality becomes law in this country."

As an Army veteran and Medal of Honor winner, Senator Inouye's voice calling for an end to Don't Ask, Don't Tell was particularly significant. In 2010, he said, "In every war we have had men and women of different sexual orientation who have stood in harm's way and given their lives for their country. I fought alongside gay men during World War II, many of them were killed in combat. Are we to suggest that because of their sexual orientation they are not heroes?"

Upon learning of Senator Inouye's death, President Obama described him as a "true American hero." Vice President Biden said he was "courage personified," and added: "To his dying day, he fought for a new era of politics where all men and women are treated with equality."

Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin lauded Senator Inouye for his support of glbtq rights. "Few have done so much for so many as Senator Daniel Inouye. He was a trailblazing leader and he will remain in our memories for standing with his LGBT sisters and brothers from day one. We will miss him, and every American should be grateful to have been touched by the life of this remarkable man."

OutServe-SLDN Executive Director Allyson Robinson said Inouye will be remembered as an "advocate for fairness and equality, becoming a key supporter of the movement to repeal the discriminatory 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' law when the chips were down and it mattered the most."

Equality Hawaii Co-Chair Scott Larimer said that Inouye had "long been a beacon of hope for those who endured ridicule and retribution for being different."

Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie will appoint a replacement to complete the remainder of Inouye's term in the Senate, which will expire in 2014.

As the video below indicates, Senator Inouye is deeply mourned in the state he loved so much and served so well.

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