Jean O’Leary, RIP

Pioneer gay rights activist, Jean O’Leary, organizer of the very first meeting of gay rights advocates in the White House and the first openly gay person appointed to a Presidential commission, has died. O’Leary’s contributions to both the gay rights movement, and on behalf of women in general in her fight for gender equality within that movement, are innumerable. Some highlights:
President Jimmy Carter … named her to the National Commission on the Observance of International Women’s Year. In that role, she negotiated the inclusion of gay and lesbian rights on the agenda of the International Women’s Year conference held in Houston in 1979. In the 1980s, Jean founded National Gay Rights Advocates (NGRA). As head of NGRA, O’Leary pursued “impact litigation” and won important victories protecting gay people from discrimination in employment, housing and other areas. In 1985 NGRA became one of the first advocacy organizations to focus on the legal and civil liberties ramifications of the AIDS epidemic.
Thanks, Jean, on behalf of us all, for making a difference.

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