If it’s true that Tom Menino met more than half the people in the city of Boston, then it must be true that he touched every single resident who is gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. As he was with every other community in the city, Tom Menino seemed to be everywhere — at every event, rally or gay pride parade, and always at the front line of equality.
But the single day that represented his deep commitment to equality as well as his sense of the moment was May 17, 2004, when he turned City Hall upside down to welcome the Boston plaintiff couples in the Goodridge decision, which granted marriage equality. The first stop? City Hall to collect their marriage licenses.
No one knew what to expect that day. Would it be peaceful or violent? There were many disquieting rumors so the planning with the mayor, his staff, and police department was focused and detailed. Police protection would be highly visible on City Hall Plaza with plain-clothed police officers mixed in with the crowd and even sharp-shooters on the roof.
These were serious and necessary precautions. But Menino made it clear from the start — there would be no retreat from the history of that day. For the mayor, this was a moment of enormous pride for Boston and the state, and that spirit would be reflected above all others.
And so it began, with Mayor Menino greeting the plaintiff couples in City Hall and escorting each of them to the clerk’s window to retrieve their license. With cameras flashing, it was hard to tell who was happier — the couples and the advocates who brought marriage equality to that moment — or the mayor, who smiled all morning long and thrilled at introducing the couples to the crowds waiting outside.
Over the years, he would often tell people that day was one of the proudest of his tenure. I’m sure it was, yet there were so many other times that spoke directly to the core values and big heart of this great man.
The truth is he loved and protected all Bostonians and stood shoulder to shoulder with so many of us at precisely the moments we felt most vulnerable. For our community, it began with the AIDS crisis. As a city councilor, Menino insisted on compassion and rejected fear. That Boston became a model for HIV/AIDS care, and treatment is an oft-forgotten but lasting legacy.
Mary Breslauer is founder and president of Communication Solutions.