Austin street to be named in honor of lesbian activist Bettie Naylor

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Bettie Naylor

Part of Austin’s West Fourth Street will soon bare the name of longtime Austin activist Bettie Naylor.

Austin City Council approved a resolution Thursday to name a five-block stretch of the street in Austin’s Historic District after Naylor. Naylor died in April at 84.

Naylor was a founding member of Equality Texas, the Human Rights Campaign and Annie’s List. After lobbying for women’s rights in the ’60s, she began fighting for LGBT rights in the ’70s, becoming Equality Texas’ original lobbyist. She later came out as a lesbian after 30 years of marriage.

Although Naylor stopped lobbying in 2009, she and her partner remained activists in the LGBT community and in Austin.

Libby Sykora, Naylor’s partner, told KUT News that she hoped the street would remind people to stop and think about what they could do for their community.

“That was Bettie’s thought every day,” Sykora said. “What am I doing for my community? And what could we do better?”

Bettie Naylor Street will be belong West Fourth Street between Congress Avenue and Rio Grande Street and will be unveiled during Austin’s LGBT Pride celebration in September.

—  Anna Waugh

Funeral for Bettie Naylor set for May 5

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Bettie Naylor

Family and friends of beloved Texas activist Bettie Naylor will celebrate her life spent advocating for LGBT and women’s rights May 5.

The service will be at 3 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church, 1201 Lavaca Street in Austin.

A celebration will then follow at the Family Life Center located one block from the Church, according to information released on behalf of Naylor’s partner Libby Sykora by Equality Texas. Memorial donations may be made to Family Eldercare, 1700 Rutherford Lane in Austin, in honor of the The Bettie Naylor Fund established to provide care for LGBT seniors.

Sykora found Naylor, 84, April 19. She had died in her sleep.

A founding member of Equality Texas, the Human Rights Campaign and Annie’s List, Equality Texas Deputy Executive Director Chuck Smith told Dallas Voice that she was the  “creator of the equal rights movement in Texas.”

—  Anna Waugh

Bettie Naylor remembered as ‘creator of the equal rights movement in Texas’

Bettie Naylor

Founding member of Equality Texas, HRC, Annie’s List dies at 84

ANNA WAUGH  |  Staff Writer

Legendary Texas activist Bettie Naylor died Wednesday night in her sleep. She was 84.

Naylor’s partner, Libby Sykora, found her Thursday morning, the Austin American-Statesman reports.

A founding member of Equality Texas, the Human Rights Campaign and Annie’s List, Naylor began lobbying for women’s rights in the ‘60s and began fighting for LGBT rights in the ‘70s, said Chuck Smith, Equality Texas deputy executive director.

While she was married to a man for 30 years, she later came out and embraced her sexuality, Smith said.

The original lobbyist for Equality Texas, Smith said that Naylor helped “change the face of women’s rights and gay rights in Texas.”

“In most respects, she was the creator of the equal rights movement in Texas,” he said.

While Naylor was fierce in her political fights, Smith said she was also funny and sweet.

“It was still easy to like Bettie because she was just so downright charming and fun to be around,” he said.

Although Naylor stopped lobbying in 2009, Smith said she and her partner remained activists in the LGBT community and in Austin.

“The two of them were quite the power couple,” he said.

Dianne Hardy Garcia, former Equality Texas executive director, worked with Naylor for many years in the ‘90s.

“We lost a great leader last night. Bettie was a loyal friend, a wise teacher and a generous soul,” she said. “She was also damn fun! I will forever be grateful to have learned from her and to have loved Bettie Naylor!”

Naylor was honored with Travis County Democratic Party’s Trio of Stars award in 2011. During an interview with the party, she was asked to describe the changes she’s witnessed during her activist and lobbying career.

Her response: “I’m amazed at the changes, although I would like to see things change more rapidly. But I think we’re far more acceptable to people now than we ever were,” Naylor said. “I think some of that has to do with the young gay people who don’t keep their sexuality a secret any more. They’re comfortable being who they are, and they’re not ashamed. You know, I was married for 30 years to a military pilot, and I was ‘outed’ by the San Antonio News-Express — on the front page and with a picture! Because of that, I have never hidden my sexuality, and now I’m very proud of it.”

Amid the sadness of her loss, Smith said Naylor will forever remain in the hearts of activists and the communities she changed for the better.

“She will be hugely missed, but I think that the work she’s done has made us better off,” Smith said. “She’ll always be a part of the LGBT movement in Texas.”

Equality Texas and HRC released statements addressing Naylor’s loss.

Equality Texas and HRC released statements addressing Naylor’s loss.

“Bettie Naylor was a force to be reckoned with, and played a central role in bettering the lives of LGBT people at both the national level and in Texas,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese.

“As a founding board member of the Human Rights Campaign, and a leader in starting our Austin Steering Committee, Bettie was a tireless advocate and never stopped working to ensure that members of our community received the rights, dignity, and respect that all people deserve. Bettie was driven by a desire to create a future where kids never had to be ashamed of who they were, but could instead live openly and without fear. Today, we live in a country where many loving, committed same-sex couples can marry and start families, where many students can thrive in their communities without fear of violence, and where a growing number of businesses are recognizing the importance of protecting their LGBT employees — these are all part of Bettie’s lasting legacy.”

 This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 20, 2012.

—  Anna Waugh