LOBBYISTS usually side with narrow special interests, but Larry Frankel, who died Friday at age 54, was the opposite. While working for the American Civil Liberties Union, Frankel championed civil liberties for all, even those who disagreed with him.

From 1992 to 2008, Frankel was the ACLU's voice on state policy in Harrisburg. Unlike most lobbyists, Frankel didn't have a political- action committee. Instead, he made progress on a host of issues through the power of ideas and persuasion.

In Harrisburg, he was liberal in a notoriously conservative environment, but Frankel built unlikely coalitions to advance civil liberties. He was one of the first people to sound the alarm about the high cost of incarceration and worked to reform sentencing laws.

Frankel was known for his ability to stop bad things from happening. A master at reading and understanding legislation, he often sounded the alarm on negative implications of bills under consideration. For example, he was instrumental in defeating a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

Frankel's sudden passing is a tragedy not only for his friends and family, but everyone who cares about equality and justice.