Arlen Specter, an independent-minded moderate who spent 30 years in the U.S. Senate but was spurned by Pennsylvania voters after switching in 2009 from Republican to Democrat, died on Sunday of cancer at the age of 82, reported NBC News.
Specter, an occasional supporter of LGBT rights, voted to prohibit job discrimination based on sexual orientation, and was a co-sponsor of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
He opposed same-sex marriage, but was also opposed to a federal ban and supported civil unions. In 2010, Specter voted in favor of repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the military’s ban on openly gay service members.
Chad Griffin, President of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT advocacy organization, issued the following statement:
“On behalf of the Human Rights Campaign, I extend our condolences to the family of Arlen Specter. His support for repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and passage of the Matthew Shepard hate crimes law was critical. As was his willingness to change his mind and oppose the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2006 after voting for it in 2004.
“While we disagreed with his support for some conservative judicial nominees which will leave a lasting negative impact on our community, he was willing to work across party lines to get things done.”
Specter had announced in August a recurrence of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, cancer of the lymphatic system. His son Shanin Specter confirmed his death.