The Death of a Champion

This weekend brings sad news to the LGBTQ community among many others as we learned of the death of long time ACLU advocate, Larry Frankel. From the PG obiturary:

Mr. Frankel, the legislative director for the Pennsylvania American Civil Liberties Union from 1992 through 2008, died last week.

His body was found Friday on a jogging trail in Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C.

Though autopsy results are pending, it is believed that he died from natural causes.

Mr. Frankel left the Pennsylvania office last year to become the state legislative counsel for the ACLU in Washington, D.C.

His work there included advising all 50 state ACLU offices on national matters, said Sara Mullen, the associate director of the Pennsylvania organization.

“I think he felt like he accomplished all he could. Not many people could handle Harrisburg for that long,” Ms. Mullen said. “Moving on to a bigger stage meant he would have a much larger impact.”

Reports began leaking out over the blogosphere and through Twitter/Facebook throughout the weekend, but no concrete details were available.  On Friday, when Frankels' then unidentified body was found in a D.C. park, PA Representative Mark Cohen posted on Young Philly Politics.com .

Longtime Pennsylvania ACLU lobbyist and Executive Director Larry Frankel, who in the last year or so has become the lobbyist for the national ACLU, has apparently been found dead in Washington under mysterious circumstances. Larry was 54. This is a breaking news story in which most key facts are still generally unknown.

Frankel was an outstanding lobbyist for the Pennsylvania ACLU in Harrisburg, taking positions on scores to hundreds of bills each year. He was a coalition builder reminiscent of Ted Kennedy in the U.S. Senate or William Brennan on the U.S. Supreme Court, who agressively reached out to unlikely allies like the National Rifle Association to help persuade members of the legislature that the ACLU was addressing broad concerns.

His aggressive outreach removed the ACLU from the fringes or margins of state policy and moved it toward the center of direct involvement.

A proud gay man, he was militant on the issue of gay marriage, believing that it was far more important to keep the legal option of gay marriage by defeating a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage than to enact civil unions legislation, an uphill battle that some, including myself, thought was winnable. His views on gay marriage were somewhat vindicated when four New England states and the state of Iowa legalized gay marriage this year.

Larry believed in the importance of facts in making decisions. His correspondence with legislators was full of facts. While his extraordinary depth of knowledge of public policy occassionally made him seem arrogant, I always found him deeply respectful to those whom he had not yet convinced.

The Philadelphia Daily News has their obituary here.

I've had the privilege of hearing Larry speak a few times at ACLU events in Pittsburgh, most recently during PrideFest when he facilitated an ACLU forum on LGBTQ rights.  At the time I was struck by his commitment to return from a nationwide position to speak at a Pittsburgh forum – a sure sign of his loyalty to his roots and his passionate belief in the advancement of our civil rights. 

The national LGBTQ rights community is also mourning Larry's loss so I believe posts will be popping around the blogosphere today.  

God speed, Larry.

 

Memorial contributions made me made in Larry's honor to the ACLU Foundation.

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