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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 7, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 23
Sen. Frank Lautenberg dies at 89 - Authored Ryan White CARE Act and other pro-LGBT laws
Section One
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Sen. Frank Lautenberg dies at 89 - Authored Ryan White CARE Act and other pro-LGBT laws

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) died June 3 at the age of 89.

In a long career that included two separate stints in the U.S. Senate, Lautenberg made a reputation as a workhorse who authored a number of important bills. For people affected by HIV/AIDS, he is best known as the author and principal advocate of the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act of 1990.

The Ryan White CARE Act remains to this day the single largest federal program for people living with HIV/AIDS. The act provides funding for low-income, uninsured, or under-insured HIV patients and their families. Some 500,000 people each year receive some level of care under the act.

Approximately one-third of Ryan White funds go to ADAP, the AIDS Drug Assistance Programs, which provide medications for 30% of the country's HIV patients. The funding was reauthorized in 1996, 2000, 2006, and 2009, and it will require reauthorization again this year.

In 2010, in response to the suicide of Gay Rutgers student Tyler Clementi, Lautenberg introduced legislation to mandate that colleges and universities have anti-harassment policies. More recently, he co-sponsored the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA), which would bar public schools from discriminating against any student on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. SNDA was introduced in the House on April 18.

BEACON FOR EQUALITY
In a statement, the HRC called Lautenberg 'a beacon for equality in Congress' and someone who '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,' HRC said. '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.' 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.'

Lautenberg was born to a Jewish immigrant family in Paterson, New Jersey, served in World War II, and then went to Columbia Business School on the GI Bill. He then made a career in business, becoming CEO of the payroll-processing giant ADP.

RETIREMENT AND RETURN
First elected to the Senate in 1982, Lautenberg retired in 2001. After the 2000 press conference announcing his decision not to run for re-election, he reportedly turned to an aide and said, 'I wish I hadn't done that. That might be the biggest mistake of my life.'

He got an opportunity to correct the error two years later, when fellow Democrat Robert Torricelli, caught up in a fundraising scandal, decided to drop out of the race for re-election to New Jersey's other Senate seat.

It took a decision of New Jersey's Supreme Court to replace Torricelli's name on the ballot with Lautenberg's, but Lautenberg went on to win the election. He served from 2003 until his death.

For his unfailing support of human rights, Lautenberg earned 100% ratings from both the HRC and the NAACP.

His successor will be chosen in a special election to be held in October.

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