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.”

After lobbying for women’s rights in the ’60s, Naylor began fighting for LGBT rights in the ‘70s when she came out as a lesbian after 30 years of marriage.

She told the Travis County Democratic Party that after she was outed by the San Antonio News-Express on the front page, she was no longer going to hide.

Her daughter, Sharron Naylor, told the San-Antonio Express-News that her mother was upset about the coverage but later looked at it as a blessing because of the freedom she gained from the news leaking.

“She enjoyed her work because she felt like she was serving the underserved and people who didn’t have a voice,” Sharron Naylor said.

Naylor then moved to Austin and began her lobbying career, diving into work with numerous organizations that she helped start and continuing her work with them even after she stopped lobbying in 2009.

See below for more comments about the impact Naylor made throughout her life’s work.

From the Austin Chronicle:

Sen. Kirk Watson got to know Bettie in the early Nineties, before he mounted a campaign for mayor of Austin. “There was that wonderful way she had of giving you her full attention when she wanted you to know what she was thinking,” he said. “She encouraged all of us to be as good as we ought to be. And you wanted to be as good as you could be because you wanted Bettie to be happy.”

Dianne Hardy-Garcia, former executive director of what was then the Lesbian Gay Rights Lobby of Texas said, “Bettie Naylor was a fearless and tenacious leader. And she was just damn fun to be around. What I loved about her, and learned from her, was that she was always willing to drink with, pray with and charm Republicans and Democrats alike in the quest for women’s equality and LGBT rights. In her mind, all things were possible and she believed everyone could change and become more enlightened. Even Warren Chisum. And Bob Bullock. And Gib Lewis. And the list goes on and on.”

From the Austin American-Statesman:

“She was everybody’s hero,” friend Carol Adams said. “She was going to be who she was. Everyone wanted to pattern their lives and work ethic after her. Everyone loved her so much, and even people who were anti-gay rights came around because they loved her.”

Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell said in a statement: “Austin is lucky to have had such a special woman in our community successfully fighting for the rights and values we all hold dear. She will be missed.”