20 Years Later,
GLAA Remembers Mel Boozer
Democratic National Convention, 1980:
"... I rise in thankful recognition of the citizens of the District of Columbia who voted for me to come here knowing that I am gay, and who continue to labor and live in a city which has no voice in determining how it shall be taxed and which has no power to effect the decisions which affect the quality of our lives.
"And finally, Mr. Chairman and members of the convention, I rise in anguished recognition of more than 20 million Americans who love this country and who long to serve this country in the same freedom that others take for granted, 20 million lesbian and gay Americans whose lives are blighted by a veil of ignorance and misunderstanding....
"We come from towns and cities where our friends are jailed and beaten on the slightest pretext. We come from churches which have been burned to the ground because they admit us to worship. We come from families which have been torn apart because we have lost our jobs, and we have lost our good names which have been slandered by false accusations, myths, and lies....
"Would you ask me how I'd dare to compare the civil rights struggle with the struggle for lesbian and gay rights? I can compare, and I do compare them. I know what it means to be called a nigger. I know what it means to be called a faggot. And I can sum up the difference in one word: none.
"Bigotry is bigotry. I have been booed before. Discrimination is discrimination. It hurts just as much. It dishonors our way of life just as much, and it betrays a common lack of understanding, fairness and compassion...."
President, Gay Activists Alliance of Washington, DC
New York City, 1980
Addressing the Democratic National Convention
(withdrawing his nomination for Vice President of the United States)
[Note: The late Melvin Boozer was president of GAA (as it was then known) for two terms, from 1979 to 1981. GAA achievements during this period included:
- Winning a court battle with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority for the right to place educational posters in Metro buses with the message "Someone in Your Life is Gay";
- Establishing the Gay and Lesbian Education Fund as a nonprofit, tax-exempt educational organization;
- Winning a fight with the U.S. Army for the right to sponsor the first annual wreath-laying at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery to honor all those who have died in the military service of the United States, including gay men and lesbians;
- Successfully pushing for establishment of the Civilian Complaint Review Board to monitor police behavior;
- Preparing a slide show on gay issues that became part of the regular training program at the DC police academy;
- Winning unanimous passage of the the Sexual Assault Reform Act by the DC Council, which decriminalized sodomy and repeals solicitation laws for consenting adults. Exercising its oversight power for only the second time, Congress overturned the Act under pressure from the Moral Majority;
- Convincing the DC Council to broaden the Housing Purchase Assistance Program to include single persons and domestic partners.
Boozer was also active in Black and White Men Together. In September 1981, he opened the Washington office of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. He died of AIDS in 1987.]
Blacklight Interview with Melvin Boozer
See also: Dudley Clendinen and Adam Nagourney, Out for Good, 1999, Simon & Schuster, New York, NY, p. 418-420.