I do not understand why there has not yet been any mention of the important work that former Massachusetts Senator William Saltonstall did for the LGBT Community and Marriage Equality in the Boston Globe obituary, or why we have not seen anything in this week's BayWindows or in a MassEquality website post. I trust that we will, at least with the latter two entities, as Senator Saltonstall not only set the bar for early public support of Gay Rights but also worked behind the scenes on a personal level to help secure Marriage Equality here in the Commonwealth.
I won't bog readers down with the history of the Saltonstall family and its Republican roots or to tell you of Bill Saltonstall, the man, as any one of the articles in the Boston Globe or the Hamilton-Wenham Chronicle (which did mention the Senator being a "proponent for gay and lesbian rights" by the way) will do. Anyone who knew Bill or even casually met him, discovered right off that he was the embodiment of integrity and to whom the term "noblesse oblige" unarguably applied.
On a personal note, I remember Bill Saltonstall at an important meeting that my husband Alex Westerhoff and I put together in early 2004 during the infamous "Compromise Amendment" that our legislature was considering which would have trumped the Goodridge Decision. My Republican Senator Bruce Tarr and Republican Rep. Brad Hill did not seem to be with us and in this roomful of notables such as Chad and Anne Gifford, Patrick Guerriero, and Robert Beal there was much discussion that "civil unions" might be the best option. Bill Saltonstall in defense of Same-Sex Marriage, rose above it all and said to Sen. Tarr and Rep. Hill, "When my daughter comes back to Massachusetts I want you to assure me that she is welcomed here as an equal" (referring to his lesbian daughter Abigail and her partner who lived in Alaska). The work that Bill Saltonstall did on behalf of Marriage Equality including his meetings and phone calls to legislators especially in my district and the wisdom he shared with them on why it is important to vote on the merits of a ballot measure not on "just allowing it to go to the electorate" was instrumental.
It was on behalf of Abigail and her partner and their adopted children that Bill Saltonstall made national headlines in June of 2000 when he wrote a letter to the Boston Globe calling out the Republican Party (the Party which his family helped mold) for its attacks on gay and lesbians especially those who adopt children. In 2003, Saltonstall testified in a Senate Hearing on behalf of equal "civil marriage." In 2006 Saltonstall asked that KnowThyNeighbor carry and read a letter from him in our presentation at another Senate Hearing on behalf of Marriage Equality. In August of 2006 Senator Saltonstall and his wife Jane co-hosted a fundraiser for Deval Patrick together with KnowThyNeighbor and The Freedom to Marry. Bill and Jane also helped establish a local (Parents of LGBT Children) support group called HEART, he gave generously to AIDS organizations worldwide and MassEquality.
I am going to speak on the behalf of the LGBT Community when I say "thank you" Senator Saltonstall for all that you have done. When so many could not and still seem to not be able to do what is right, you spoke out on behalf of your family and on behalf of LGBT people for dignity, respect and an equal place for us (all).
Tom Lang, Director of KnowThyNeighbor