[Note: On Wednesday, October 29 from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m., the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and the Historical Society of Washington, DC, held a panel and reception in honor of Lesbian & Gay History Month, at the Historical Society's headquarters in the Christian Heurich Mansion. The evening, moderated by historian John Howard of Duke University (and editor of Carryin' On in the Lesbian and Gay South), featured a "living timeline" of persons speaking as eyewitnesses to important events in our collective history.
Panelists included photographer Joan E. Biren, Mandy Carter of the National Black Lesbian and Gay Leadership Forum, Franklin Kameny (founder of the gay movement in Washington, DC), Deacon Maccubbin of Lambda Rising Bookstore, Donna Red Wing of the Human Rights Campaign, Barrett Brick of the World Congress of Gay and Lesbian Jewish Organizations (and GLAA Treasurer), transgender activist Jessica Xavier, Meg Riley of the Unitarian Universalists, Martin Ornelas-Quintero of LLEGO, Paulette Goodman of PFLAG, and others. GLAA President Rick Rosendall contributed the following thumbnail history of GLAA.]
The Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, D.C. is the oldest continuously active gay civil rights organization in the United States. It was founded in April 1971 as the Gay Activists Alliance after Franklin Kameny's historic campaign for Delegate to Congress, which demonstrated that the District's gay community was a constituency to be reckoned with. From the beginning, GLAA has been independent and nonpartisan, dedicated to advocacy and political action on behalf of equal rights for gay men and women in the nation's capital.
From its first year, GLAA has educated and rated District candidates, lobbied elected officials, monitored District agencies, and engaged in advocacy on gay civil rights and health issues. Some GLAA projects eventually were spun off into new organizations, such as the Gay and Lesbian Education Fund and Gay Men and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV). With the rise of more specialized groups, such as the media watchdog group GLAAD and gay employee groups within private companies, GLAA retired its media and employment projects in favor of its core political mission.
We have fought discrimination by the Marines, the Park Police, the Boy Scouts, Big Brothers, Woodward & Lothrop (a department store, now defunct we outlasted them), the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, and Georgetown University. We have held rallies and organized coalitions that resulted in legislative breakthroughs on matters from hate crimes to condom availability to domestic partnership to sodomy repeal. We have created public service radio spots and educational publications. With GLOV, we launched the annual Walk Without Fear against homophobic violence.
GLAA's efforts led to a string of legislative victories: The DC School Board (in 1972) became the first in the nation to pass a resolution prohibiting discrimination within the school system based on sexual orientation. The DC Human Rights Law (in 1973) made this the nation's first major city to outlaw anti-gay discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations. Funding was terminated for police units that engaged in anti-gay harassment and entrapment. Laws were passed on hate crimes, domestic partners, custody rights, and repeal of the sodomy statute. We successfully pushed for a Civilian Complaint Review Board, and a condom availability program in schools and prisons. We worked against the DC School Prayer Initiative and other measures that threaten our First Amendment protections. In our most recent coalition work, we joined with the Gay Business Guild to fight regulatory harassment of gay businesses, and we joined a task force of the DC branch of the NAACP to work on police and criminal justice issues.
The launch of our world wide web site last year, made GLAA's expertise available online. After 26 years, GLAA remains at the forefront of District politics as advocates and watchdogs on behalf of gay people. Come to a meeting, or visit us online at www.glaa.org.