Connecticut loses ‘small but powerful’ lawyer

Shawn Lang, who was a steadfast voice for LGBTQ rights in Connecticut and a longtime AIDS activist, died suddenly Sunday after decades of advocating for vulnerable people.

Described by her friends as both a tireless and relentless advocate, Lang has also fought for the homeless, domestic violence and those struggling with opioid addiction. From 1991 until recently, she worked for AIDS Connecticut, including years as the organization’s deputy director when she frequently interacted with policymakers in the state.

Shawn Lang, shown working in August 2016 as assistant manager of AIDS Connecticut, posted a leaflet on Naloxone that was supposed to be displayed in drugstores. Credit: Christine Stuart / CTNewsJunkie

Lang was 65 and lived in Hartford. She is survived by her 24 year old son, Corbett Lang. No cause of death has reportedly been determined and no memorial service has yet been scheduled.

Shawn Lang was a unique and familiar face on the State Capitol and in the political arenas of Connecticut. She kept her hair cropped in gray, her arms were marked with scattered tattoos, and at press conferences and conferences she often held a shorter head than other speakers.

“I know it’s cliché – but she was small but powerful,” said State Representative Jeff Currey, a Democrat from East Hartford who said he first met Lang towards the end of his prime. mandate. “It became very clear very quickly that in seeking to make LGBTQ protections and rights – especially in the health field – that Shawn Lang was one of your people of choice.”

Currey said Lang, who grew up in Massachusetts, was not afraid to be an energetic voice for the causes she championed.

“You knew when you heard that kind of Irish accent from Boston, she was either really happy or you were just about to get it,” he said. Currey said he was impressed with the job Lang had done. “This is a huge loss, not only to our community, but to the state of Connecticut and the region.

Lobbyist Kate Robinson, of Gallo & Robinson, recalled Lang as a powerful person capable of seeing everyone as a friend.

“It has transcended any labels we place on people in the Capitol environment and in society at large,” Robinson said. “She was comfortable in any room with any person. She just had a light in her that attracted people. She made everyone feel special. She made everyone feel heard.

Lang was honored as Champion for Change to Advance Prevention, Treatment and Recovery by Former President Barack Obama after being appointed by former Governor Dannel P. Malloy. She also obtained the The Reverend Richard Schuster Award for Supporting Housing Advocacy for its advocacy and organizational work around housing.


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In a press release, US Senator Richard Blumenthal called Lang a defender of basic human rights.

“She stood up and spoke tirelessly and endlessly for so many humiliated or despised people, inspiring others to do the same,” said Blumenthal. “She was a true fighter for LGBTQ + rights, defending people with AIDS and HIV and those affected by opioid addiction. I am proud to have called her my friend, and like so many other public servants, I appreciated her wise advice.

As the news spread on Monday, state officials reacted on social media. In a Twitter post, US Senator Chris Murphy said Lang had been his General Assembly mentor early in his career.

“I was a new 29-year-old Legislative Health Committee chair and Shawn Lang took me under his wing to show me what true compassion looks like for the most vulnerable patients in the world. ‘State,’ Murphy wrote.

Attorney General William Tong said Lang has been a staunch advocate for Connecticut’s most vulnerable.

“Today we mourn the loss of a champion and remember with deep gratitude Shawn’s many efforts to create a more just and equitable society,” Tong wrote.

Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin wrote that Lang’s death was a “tremendous and heartbreaking loss”.

Bronin wrote that “Shawn was a giant in his advocacy and activism – with a giant heart. She was a friend and I will miss her.

Lang has also written several editorials for CTNewsJunkie over the years. They are available here.

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About Ray Coulombe

Ray Coulombe

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