Senator Barrios Speaks to HLS Students


Former Massachusetts State Senator Jarrett Barrios spoke last week about political participation and marriage equality in Massachusetts.

Approximately thirty law students gathered last Thursday night in Pound Hall to hear former Massachusetts State Senator Jarrett Barrios speak. The HLS Democrats and Lambda co-sponsored the event. Barrios spoke about a range of issues, from becoming the first openly gay Hispanic to be elected as a state senator to the issue of gay marriage in the Commonwealth.

Barrios emphasized the role that values have played and continue to play in his career. He explained that while one of the biggest dilemmas facing politicians is the difficult trade-off of being effective with remaining someone who stands for principles, politicians should not sacrifice their values. This notion he described, reaches beyond just politicians. Encouraging the attendees to get involved, he cautioned them to also, “remember what it is you want from them” when joining a campaign.

Tyler Rosen, a Co-President of the HLS Democrats, commented after the event, “Senator Barrios spoke with great candor and thought about the choices young, politically conscious people face. It was a very exciting talk and we were very pleased to host him.” Rosen connected the talk with the mission of the HLS Democrats. “His talk fit perfectly with our organization’s goal of bringing thoughtful, impressive people to campus to talk about Democratic politics and the range of options available for Harvard Law School students and graduates who are interested in making a difference and getting involved.”

Barrios also went into detail about the struggle to bring equality in marriage to Massachusetts. This spring, Barrios, along with many others, successfully defeated a state constitutional amendment that would have banned gay marriage in the Commonwealth. He noted that since the recognition of gay marriage in 2004, public opinion has greatly shifted in favor of the institution.

Anne Gibson, co-president of Lambda, explained, “I definitely think he’s a real inspiration in terms that he is openly gay and has a very successful political career. The senator has proved by his own actions that you can be open about who you are and be successful in politics.”

Barrios, who currently serves as the President of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation, was first elected in 1998, at the age of twenty-nine, to the Massachusetts State House. In 2002, Barrios was elected to the State Senate. As a state legislator, he chaired the Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee and was vice-chair of the Health Care Committee. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Harvard College and a law degree from Georgetown University Law Center.

Barrios resigned this summer from the Senate to take his position at Blue Cross Blue Shield. He stated his intention to remain committed to public service and mentioned his current efforts to increase minority access to health care in Massachusetts.

When asked about running for political office, Barrios gave one final piece of important advice about the importance of campaigning hard, “What matters is the shoe leather.”

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