Very sad news to report. New Jersey's Rep. Donald M. Payne has died after a brief battle with colon cancer.
The 77-year-old Democrat was a native of Newark and became New Jersey's first Black congressman in 1988. The 12-term congressman was also the former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. President Barack Obama released this statement which reads in part:
"By any standard, Don lived a full and meaningful life. After serving as the first African American President of the National Council of YMCAs, and then several years in local government, Don went on to become the first African American Congressman to represent the state of New Jersey.
"He made it his mission to fight for working families, increase the minimum wage, ensure worker safety, guarantee affordable health care and improve the educational system. He was a leader in US-Africa policy, making enormous contributions towards helping restore democracy and human rights across the continent. Don will be missed, and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends during this difficult time."
Rep. Payne was a progressive, a staunch champion of civil, women's and labor rights—and a major LGBT ally. The congressman boasted a 100% Rating from the Human Rights Campaign, supporting the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, opposed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", a federal marriage amendment and the Defense of Marriage Act. Payne was an early supported of marriage equality.