In 1993, Tom Menino asked me, an out lesbian, to run his campaign for mayor. I knew what kind of person he was—he stood up for what he believed in and put others before himself. I did not hesitate to say yes.
When I met District City Counselor Tom Menino in 1984, I was then Mayor Ray Flynn’s liaison to the lesbian and gay community. 1984 marked the first year that elections for District City Counsel were held, and the Boston Lesbian and Gay Political Alliance (BLGPA) had worked hard to start lesbian and gay groups in each neighborhood.
City Counselor Tom Menino called me. He told me that he had learned there was a new group in his neighborhood and he wanted to meet with them. He wanted to be sure they knew each other and that if they had any issues with the City, he’d be there to help.
In the course of our phone conversations, I had the opportunity to talk with him about needle exchange to minimize the risk of spreading HIV and other illnesses. He said, “If needle exchange is saving lives, then I am supporting it.” This was in 1984, nearly 30 years ago. He was clear about where he stood, no matter the political cost.
When he won his first term as mayor, he made it a priority to make City Hall accessible to everyone. He formed a new type of City Government consisting of six chiefs. I was appointed Chief of Health and Human Services.
Our new administration’s first neighborhood visit was Charlestown. The high school was packed. Questions came in a flurry. One gentleman raised his hand and asked, “Why do you refuse to march in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade?” The Mayor’s answer was direct and clear, “You may not agree with everything I do, but I have to stand up for what I believe in.” The Mayor would not march because LGBT groups were, as they are today, excluded. A majority of the people applauded. They recognized a leader demonstrating the courage of his convictions.
Mayor Menino has been a presence in our community for the past 30 years. He has always taken the initiative to ask where he could help our community. He checked in with activists and community members on a regular basis. He is the first Boston Mayor to march at the head of the Boston Pride Parade and he personally escorted the first same-sex couple in Boston to apply for a legal marriage license to the registry window in Boston City Hall.
He cares deeply and consistently showed it with both his words and actions.
I am very proud that I had the opportunity to work with Mayor Menino and thank him for being an incredible friend to our community. We will always be grateful for his leadership, integrity, and sense of justice. I would like to publicly thank him for his leadership and partnership with our community.
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