Inspired by such leaders as President John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., Robert F. Kennedy and Mahatma Gandhi, Stan has devoted a considerable amount of his time and efforts to help advance legislation and policies to deliver on the promise of equal rights for all.
As a first term Senator he helped secure passage of legislation to offer protections to the people regardless of sexual orientation by amending the state’s non-discrimination statute. Through that legislation they, for the first time, won the same right to challenge discrimination against them in the workplace, housing and public accommodations. This was a 14 year long battle for equal treatment under the law and is guaranteed by the Constitution as a matter of fundamental right.
Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination
Believing that “Justice delayed is justice denied”, Stan, as Chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, proposed and won increased funding for the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. This funding eliminated the huge backlog of cases that was resulting in extremely long delays in getting a hearing and resolving cases pending before the agency.
During his tenure at the Ways and Means Committee, Stan also provided increased funding for HIV services, METCO (which provides an alternative educational opportunity for urban children), Safe Schools, and Gay Straight Alliance programs to help protect and support LGBT students in our public schools and to create greater understanding and acceptance of the diversity of humanity.
As the newly appointed Assistant Majority Leader in 1999, Stan acted as mediator and helped produce one of the most dynamic approaches to addressing racial profiling in the country. Too many women and people of color were being routinely stopped, without apparent cause, while travelling roadways in Massachusetts. The systems that Stan helped create recognized police officers acting in good faith and increased protections for those who might otherwise be harassed or abused by authorities. The system required that all traffic stops had to be documented and then analyzed to determine whether there were patterns that suggested discrimination. Corrective action was then required where questionable patterns were discerned.
In 2004, seven Massachusetts same-sex couples sought marriage licenses at their local city and town halls only to be denied licenses. They believed that they were guaranteed “equal protection” under the Massachusetts Constitution and brought their case to the courts. By a 5-4 vote the Justices of the Massachusetts State Supreme Judicial Court agreed. The Justices in their decision gave the State Legislature 90 days to make any adjustments in the law that were necessary to ensure these couples could secure marriage licenses. This began a three and a half year battle as the opponents to same sex marriage sought to amend the Massachusetts State Constitution to redefine marriage as legal only between one man and one woman.
Stan was the chief legislative strategist working with his colleagues in both the House and Senate to organize and build support to prevent this discriminatory language from being inserted into the Massachusetts Constitutional. This was the most protracted debate and battle the state’s Constitutional Convention had seen in decades. In this debate Massachusetts would either be confirmed as the first state in the nation to recognize and sanction same sex marriage as a matter of civil right or join a number of other states by incorporating discriminatory language in its Constitution. Meeting after meeting, the team that Stan lead beat back the powerful forces seeking to write discrimination into the constitution. In the end, 158 legislators (out of 200) voted “no” to discrimination and “yes” to equal rights. This was a moment filled with personal and professional humility for Stan and his colleagues. Courage, commitment, justice, fairness and civil rights had triumphed and an important piece of history was written that day. Stan and his colleagues knew they had done their job and done it well.
As Senate President, Stan secured passed of legislation to guarantee protections for transgender individuals including public accommodations. This bill built on the success of his earlier efforts to protect transgender rights in the workplace, housing, and employment. Massachusetts joined 17 other states that currently have protections including public accommodations.
Much progress has been made but there’s more to do. Stan is currently supporting legislation that would secure the rights of transgender and transsexual individuals and a new bill on racial profiling to pick up where the last one left off.