Op-Ed: The Governor’s Race: Martha Coakley Walks the Walk!

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Elyse Cherry 
Photo: TRT/Alex Mancini

By: Elyse Cherry*—

The National Football League made history earlier this month when Jeff Fisher, the coach of the St. Louis Rams, drafted Michael Sam, the first openly gay professional football player.

What was striking about Fisher’s interviews was that he spoke and acted from the heart. He believed that Michael Sam could help his team win, but his core values also made him proud to help knock down another discriminatory barrier. “I’m honored to be a part of it,” Fisher told interviewers.

Jeff Fisher opened the door; other NFL coaches will now step through. 

But in this, the first gubernatorial election in a post-marriage world, Martha Coakley’s leadership extends well beyond marriage. She is the only candidate with a detailed, specific program on LGBTQ issues—access to health care, school safety, bullying prevention, homeless services. …She was also the first to follow the lead of the Governor in banning anti-transgender discrimination in her office, and she continues to fight to ensure access to places of public accommodation.

Martha Coakley is the JEFF FISHER of Massachusetts. As Attorney General, Coakley—with the herculean efforts of Maura Healey (also endorsed by Mass Equality in her race to succeed Coakley as Attorney General) and Mary Bonauto (GLAD)—challenged the federal government’s Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)—and won.  The First Circuit Court of the United States struck down DOMA because they agreed that with Martha Coakley that the law unfairly denied more than 16,000 same-sex families in Massachusetts the rights and benefits they had earned and that were rightfully theirs. Coakley’s leadership inspired the U.S. Department of Justice to back away from DOMA. And when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down DOMA’s ban on federal marriage recognition last year, it echoed many of Coakley’s original arguments.

But in this, the first gubernatorial election in a post-marriage world, Martha Coakley’s leadership extends well beyond marriage. She is the only candidate with a detailed, specific program on LGBTQ issues—access to health care, school safety, bullying prevention, homeless services. The list goes on.

Coakley chaired the Massachusetts’ Commission on Bullying Prevention and, in partnership with MassEquality, the Anti-Defamation League, and others successfully sponsored legislation that requires schools to update anti-bullying plans to include protections for especially vulnerable populations, including LGBTQ youth.

She is the only gubernatorial candidate to have testified in person in support of expanded legal protections and equal access for transgender individuals. She was also the first to follow the lead of the Governor in banning anti-transgender discrimination in her office, and she continues to fight to ensure access to places of public accommodation. Coakley also won strong court judgments against perpetrators of anti-gay and racially motivated hate crimes.

Martha Coakley’s courage and her unshakeable commitment to justice and equality is not limited to her work on LGBTQ issues. The letter she wrote last week threatening to sue the Federal Housing Finance Agency if Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac continued to ignore their obligations to work with Massachusetts homeowners in foreclosure, her staunch advocacy supporting the need for buffer zones to protect women accessing reproductive health services, and her widely acknowledged and unsurpassed leadership among Attorneys General across the country in the fight to hold large financial institutions accountable for their misdeeds are just a few of the issues on which Massachusetts residents benefit from Coakley’s determined leadership. 

Coakley chaired the Massachusetts’ Commission on Bullying Prevention and, in partnership with MassEquality, the Anti-Defamation League, and others successfully sponsored legislation that requires schools to update anti-bullying plans to include protections for especially vulnerable populations, including LGBTQ youth.  

Massachusetts voters recognize and respect courage—and they respect a candidate whose positions are guided by a strong internal lodestone—a reliable moral compass that distinguishes right from wrong—rather than by a set of talking points developed after putting a finger in the wind.

That’s why in the last election cycle Martha Coakley received more votes than any other candidate for state wide office.  That’s also why she is the clear leader in every independent poll in this election cycle.

And that’s why MASSEQUALITY, the leading advocacy group on LGBTQ issues, made the right decision when it unanimously endorsed Martha Coakley as our candidate for governor. At the ten-year anniversary of marriage equality in Massachusetts, our world has changed—for the better—because we all worked hard to change it. The LGBTQ community can take pride in the fact that, as a result of our long years of organizing and our strong community institutions, many of our Democratic candidates for Governor now support LGBTQ issues.   To continue to make history and to advance equality, we need more elected officials—more candidates—who walk the walk in addition to talking the talk. That is crucial for building the world we want—a world in which justice and equality for all is a given, not a goal.

*Elyse Cherry chaired MassEquality during its successful campaign for marriage equality in Massachusetts, served as director of the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, and is currently a board member of LPAC, a political action committee created to support candidates who champion issues impacting lesbians and their families. Earlier this year she received the Susan M. Love award from Fenway Health, and she was named one of Twenty-one Women for the Twenty-first Century by Women’s enews.

 

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