Annise Parker to dedicate marker at Gittings’ home in Philly

Houston Mayor Annise Parker

Former Houston Mayor Annise Parker

Former Houston Mayor Annise Parker, the first openly LGBT mayor of a major U.S. city, will be keynote speaker at a ceremony in Philadelphia later this month unveiling a historic marker at the home of the late Barbara Gittings, a leading LGBT rights activist from the early days of the movement until her death in 2007.


Barbara Gittings

The Barbara Gittings Residence Historic Marker Dedication ceremony is set for Tuesday, July 26, from 11-11:30 a.m. at the home Gittings shared with her partner, Kay Lahusen. The ceremony, taking place as part of the 2016 Equality Forum in Philadelphia, will also feature Equality Forum founder and Executive Director Malcolm Lazin and a special performance by the Anna Crusis Women’s Choir, the oldest existing feminist choir in the U.S.. Gittings was a member of the choir.

Lazin said that as the first openly LGBT mayor of a major U.S. city, Parker is “the right person to be dedicating this historic marker to the ‘mother of the LGBT civil rights movement.'”

Gittings, born in 1932, lived in Philadelphia with Lahusen. She was the editor of the first lesbian publication in the country, and with Frank Kameny, helped organize the “Annual Reminders” at Independence Hall and at the Liberty Bell, marches commemorating the 1965 march for gay rights at Independence Hall. The Annual Reminders happened before the Stonewall Rebellion in New York, in 1969.

Gittings also spearheaded the successful effort to have the American Library Association include gay and lesbian books in the nation’s card catalogs and libraries. And teaming again with Kameny, Gittings helped push the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses.

The purpose of Equality Forum, according to its website is to “convene elected officials, newsmakers, activists, and opinion leaders to discuss the state and future of the LGBT movement during the Democratic National Convention.” For information check the website here.

—  Tammye Nash

GLBT History Month’s 1st icon is gay ex-Marine from Texas who lost leg in Iraq war

For the fifth consecutive year, the Equality Forum presents GLBT icons for each day of October, to mark GLBT History Month. And this year’s first icon is Texas’ own Eric Alva of San Antonio, who was the first casualty of the Iraq war. Alva, a Marine staff sergeant, lost his leg when he stepped on a land mine three hours into the ground invasion in 2003. But it wasn’t until after Alva returned home — and had been visited by President George W. Bush in the hospital and appeared on “Oprah” — that he came out as gay and become a spokesman for the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell.” From our story on Alva in April 2007:

He says it wasn’t until one night last fall that it came to him. He had always wanted to help people, but wasn’t sure how.

“I would always talk about it, but it was more words just coming out of my mouth because I never did anything about it,” he says.

After Alva’s partner, whom he met after returning from Iraq, pleaded with him to do something before his notoriety wore off, Alva decided to e-mail HRC.

“I said, ‘I don’t know how I may help you, but the story is I am a gay Marine,’” Alva recalls.

A few days later, HRC returned his call. Then, after U.S. Rep. Marty Meehan, D-Mass., announced plans to reintroduce the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, which would repeal “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” they called again.

“They called and said, “‘Eric, we need you now,’” Alva says. “I knew that what I was about to do was a huge sacrifice on my part. But I needed to tell people that this is the way the country should be.”

Of course, more than three years later, “don’t ask don’t tell” remains in place. So perhaps it’s fitting that Alva is the first icon of this year’s GLBT History Month. We haven’t heard much from him lately, but according to the Equality Federation, he’s working on his master’s degree in social work.

—  John Wright

October is GLBT History Month

It’s GLBT History Month, and what better way to kick it off than with a Texas native?! Over on its GLBT History Month Web site, Equality Forum will be presenting a GLBT icon for each day of the month, including a video, bio, downloadable images and other resources. Today’s GLBT icon is Alvin Ailey Jr., who was an internationally acclaimed dancer and choreographer born in Rogers, Texas. Never heard of Ailey? That’s because we don’t know our history. According to the Web site, “The GLBT community is the only community worldwide that does not learn its history at home, in public schools or in religious institutions. GLBT History Month teaches our heritage, provides role models, builds community and makes the civil rights statement of our extraordinary national and international contributions.”

After the jump, a full list of GLBT icons who’ll be honored this month, which marks the fourth year of the project.

—  John Wright