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Gay Rights Movement: Series 4: National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Records, 1973-2000


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Introduction: The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Records, 1973-2000

Introduction: Gay Rights Movement:Series 4: The National Gay and Lesbian Task

Force Records, 1973-2000

 

TheNational Gay and Lesbian Task Force collection consists of correspondence,press clippings, financial and administrative records, field files, subjectfiles, and photographs that, taken together, provide a broad overview of theAmerican movement for lesbian and gay civil rights from 1973 to 2000.

 

Subject and field files in thecollection range from the California and Dade County, Florida civil rightsbattles of the late 1970s to the ongoing political skirmishes around the AIDSepidemic. NGLTF projects address workplace discrimination and violence againstlesbians and gay men, while an entire subseries of subject files preservesmaterials from more than one hundred lesbian and gay organizations across theUnited States. The bulk of the material contained in the collection covers theactivities of the mid-1980s and good portions of the early 1990s. Thisconcentration of material is in large part the direct result of the fact thatthe organization during the 1970s was simply smaller in its overall scope whilefiles from its contemporary work - specifically its active files - are heldat NGLTF offices in Washington, DC.

 

Although therecords of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force are organized into sixseparate series, the microfilm collection is divided into only three sections.The first and second sections of the microform edition coincide with the firstand second series as described below. The third part aggregates the last fourseries outlined below into a single part.

 

Series 1: Internal Files

 

The first series containsadministrative files internal to NGLTF, including founding documents, staffreports, Board minutes, press releases, membership and fundraising files, andfinancial records. These administrative files include correspondence from tenexecutive directors: Bruce Voeller, Lucia Valeska, C.F. Brydon, Virginia M.Apuzzo, Jeff Levi, Urvashi Vaid, Tori Osborn, Peri Jude Radecic, Melinda Paras,and Kerry Lobel. There are no discrete files on Jean O'Leary, the earliestdirector. The correspondence files of Bruce Voeller, Virginia Apuzzo, JeffLevi, Urvashi Vaid, and Kerry Lobel are the most complete; the correspondencefiles of other Executive Directors do not appear to be comprehensive. Melinda Paras and Kerry Lobels extensiveTravel Files provide a good sense of how much work executive directorsconducted outside of the NGLTF offices.

 

Also included in this series arematerials related to the Fund for Human Dignity, a functional adjunct to NGLTFestablished in 1974 to educate the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transsexualcommunity and the general public about the role of homosexual men and women inour society. The Fund became the first gay organization to receive tax-exemptstatus. Files from the Fund for Human Dignity that came from the MariposaEducation and Research Foundation Archive are cataloged separately.

 

Series 2: Field Files

 

The second series featuresdocumentation from NGLTF field projects. Until about 1995, NGLTF worked ontopically focused projects, with state, local, and federal work coordinated byand within these projects. Projects focused primarily on areas outside ofWashington, DC. The most comprehensive set of materials comes from theAnti-Violence and AIDS Projects, directed by Kevin Berrill and Belinda Rochellerespectively.

 

The Anti-Violence files includestaff reports, strategic planning documents, press releases, notes oncongressional hearings and lobbying efforts, information on variousantiviolence projects, extensive correspondence, documentation of cases ofharassment and violence, and working files from 1977-1993 that provide a clearview of the range of NGLTFs activity in this area. One whole box (54) containsmaterials related to the Hate Crimes Statistics Act.

 

The AIDS Project files includesubject files on HIV/HTLV-III blood testing, government funding for AIDSresearch, and the state and episodes of AIDS discrimination. The correspondencedocuments NGLTFs role in AIDS activism in the early 1980s. Also included areextensive files on the Presidents Commission on the HIV Epidemic withtestimonies and notes. Several files on NGLTFs organizing around World AIDSDay 1989 are also contained in this series. Three boxes contain publicationsrelating to Health and AIDS.

 

Seriestwo also includes files from Project Open Employment as well as videotapes of aseries of workshops on antisodomy legislation organized by Sue Hyde, directorof NGLTFs Privacy Project. These tapes include several presentations by ACLUsNan Hunter and Arthur C. Warner, Director of the American Association forPersonal Privacy. Files documenting the work of the Gays in the MilitaryProject, directed by Tori Osborn; the Families/Domestic Partnership Project,directed by Ivy Young; and NGLTFs national organizing conference, CreatingChange, are also included in series two.

 

Information on specific projectsis also located in the subset of General Field Files, which contains the filesof Sharon Kennedy, Peri Jude Radecic, and Urvashi Vaid. Kennedy was involvedprimarily in work against censorship, especially in the early 1990s. Radecicsfiles document her work as a lobbyist from 1986 to 1993. Vaids files covervarious administrative matters and legal cases through the 1980s and 1990s.This subset also includes background material on civil rights groups and hategroups as well as geographic files organized by state and subject files onpublic policy issues. Major subjects covered include the arts and censorship,the National Day of Mourning for victims of AIDS, and various antigay ballotinitiatives. There are also files on U.S. presidential candidates,antipornography legislation, abortion, the birth control drug Depo Provera, gayand lesbian parents, gay and lesbian journalists, and the gay-baiting ofpoliticians.

 

Series 3: Policy Institute

 

The third series contains filesfrom the NGLTF Policy Institute, self-advertised as a proactive hub ofresearch, policy analysis, tactical thinking, and strategic initiatives.Presently, this series consists entirely of Urvashi Vaids files. Vaid was thedirector of the Policy Institute from 1996 to 2001. There are no discrete fileson the work of John DEmilio, the Policy Institutes first director from 1995to 1996.

 

Series 4: Subject Files

 

The fourth series, which is thelargest, comprises all the subject files from the Task Forces beginning.Almost all of the subject files are grouped alphabetically.

 

Among these files is thesixteen-cubic-foot subseries Organizations, Political Parties andPublications, which includes files on lesbian and gay organizations, politicalparties and elections, and correspondence with Congress members and variouspublications. The files of this subseries primarily consist of correspondencewith local lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender groups nationwide;correspondence with magazines, newspapers and newsletters; correspondence withmembers of congress from 1987 to 1993; and files on political parties and presidentialelections 1980 to 1992, including results from NGLTF conducted surveys ofpresidential candidates, campaign mailings, and related clippings.

 

Series 5: Photographs

 

The fifth series is photographs.These are very useful to researchers seeking images of early lesbian and gayrights leaders, parades, and actions. We have organized the photos into twosub-series. The first, People, includes photos of former staff, boardmembers, volunteers, individuals who were part of an NGLTF advertising campaign,and people NGLTF had labeled Famous Gays and Famous Hets. The second,History and Events, includes photos that NGLTF staff and others took atevents including the press conference announcing the American PsychiatricAssociations changed position on homosexuality in 1973, the InternationalWomens Year convention in 1977, a meeting at the White House in 1977, pridemarches in New York City and Washington, DC, and various NGLTF gala events andtrips for volunteers. These photos have been indexed to the item level, makingthe series quite accessible and easy to use.

 

Series 6: Miscellany

 

Oversized materials, a fewobjects, some publications by NGLTF and others, and miscellaneous audiotapesand videotapes are in this series. Many of the publications and audio-visualmaterials are the products of NGLTF staffs work on antigay violence and AIDSactivism.

 

A Note on Publications

 

A portion of NGLTFs publications was microfilmed. Theseitems are listed as part of box 186 in Series 6 and include a few titles fromthe 1970s (a gay community services directory, a response to the Supreme Courtsodomy ruling, and a conference report), a group of pamphlets from 1981,publications on anti-gay/lesbian violence from 1984-1994, a domesticpartnership organizing manual and a gay parents support packet, Fight the RightAction Kits from the early 1990s, and publications about gays and religion.These may be cataloged separately in the future. See also note under RelatedCollections below for information on NGLTF publications separated from thecollection at Cornell University and integrated into other collections withinthe Human Sexuality Collection.

 

 

NGLTF and theGrowth of the Gay and Lesbian Movement in the United States

 

One of the more remarkable developments of the latetwentieth century was the emergence of a vigorous political movement of gay menand lesbians. Half a century ago, homosexual behavior was most often viewed asa sin, a sickness, or a crime. Now, at the start of the twenty-first century,the issue is commonly discussed using the language of identity and debatedwithin a framework of human rights. This shift is not unique to North America;in fact, it is increasingly global in scope as active gay and lesbian movementsemerge in Central and South America, Western and Eastern Europe, Russia, Southand East Asia, Australia, and Southern Africa.

 

In the United States, this movement traces its origins tothe years immediately after World War II. During the politically conservativeMcCarthy era, it remained small and marginal but it took its first significantsteps toward visibility in the 1960s, under the influence of the burgeoningblack civil rights movement. In June of 1969, the patrons of a gay bar in NewYork City responded to a police raid by fighting back. The resulting StonewallRiot was a watershed moment. In the 1970s, as radical protests swept cities andcollege campuses and the sexual revolution challenged conventional norms, thegay and lesbian movement strove to become a presence in American social,cultural, and political life. In the 1980s, the AIDS epidemic added a newurgency to the efforts of the gay community to influence public policy. By thetime of Bill Clintons presidency, gay and lesbian issues had entered themainstream. At present, lesbian and gay organizations are firmly established atthe national, state, and local level. Gay communities are visible in mostmetropolitan areas, while the structure of law and public policy has changedsignificantly - and continues to change - in the direction of equal treatment.

 

Historians, sociologists, and political scientists havebarely begun to examine in depth how such significant change happened. The keyevents, the important campaigns, and the underlying social trends and processesremain under-analyzed. The evolution of the lesbian and gay movement and thehistory of the growth of modern gay communities offer students of collectivepolitical behavior and social change rich topics to investigate. The papers ofthe National Gay and Lesbian Task Force make up the most valuable singlecollection of documentary material on these issues. Its value stems from anumber of factors relating to the history of NGLTF and the larger gay andlesbian movement.

 

 

CounteringInvisibility

 

Today, gays and lesbians are a visible, integral part ofcontemporary life: there are hundreds of openly gay elected and appointedofficials at every level of government; television series routinely featurelesbian or gay characters; issues like same-sex marriage, gays in the military,and the exclusion of gays from the Boy Scouts have been major news stories.Such openness is a relatively recent phenomenon. Until well into the 1990s,invisibility was the norm. Most gays and lesbians sought to hide their identityin order to avoid harassment, discrimination, or social ostracism, while mostmedia tended to avoid the subject of homosexuality, except as anoff-the-beaten-path or overtly sensational news items or television showsubject. The invisibility of gay and lesbian life in the United States,however, is belied by the reality of how much documentable - indeed, newsworthy- material there was out there. For scholars, the records of NGLTF provide whatmay be the best road map to the important events, the public controversies, andthe political battles that addressed and affected gay and lesbian life from theearly 1970s through the mid-1990s.

 

This is illustrated by the headlines of the press releasescontained in Series One of the collection. Beginning in the late 1970s, conservativesin a number of communities around the country launched efforts to deny gays andlesbians protection against discrimination. Few people remember that in 1978,St. Paul, Minnesota - a liberal, tolerant city - was the site of a bitterlyfought referendum campaign to repeal a gay rights ordinance, yet this wasdocumented in a press release of April 26th of that year.

 

The Family Protection Act, now long forgotten, was a billintroduced by moral conservatives in 1981, during the first session of Congressafter Ronald Reagans election as president. The Family Protection Act was oneof the first and most visible of legislative battles in a contentious debateover family issues. The politics of family have been grinding on for morethan two decades, leading to such devastating pieces of major legislation asthe Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, which prohibited recognition of same-sexmarriages by any federal agency or program, and the overhaul of the welfaresystem that same year. The NGLTF papers open a window onto an early moment inthis major ongoing public debate.

 

Media depictions of gays and lesbians are yet anothertelling example. Will and Grace,one of the most popular network television shows at the turn of the millennium,depicts two gay male characters and their friendships with heterosexual women.The show has received a host of Emmy nominations and awards and has had asuccessful run of several years. In the 1970s and 1980s, such programming wasas rare as a two-dollar bill. In fact, a major concern of activists was thestereotypically negative depiction of gay and lesbian characters. NGLTF madethis a major focus of its work in the 1970s and early 1980s, when it attemptedto mobilize viewers to write letters, make phone calls, and support boycotts ofadvertisers. NGLTF targeted some of the eras most popular shows, such as Baretta, Kojak, and Soap. No quarter was given toHollywood movies, like Cruising andWindows, both of which portrayed gays andlesbians as psychopathic killers. Such events now exist below the radar screenof history, but for researchers of media history, NGLTFs work in this area isan invaluable part of our understanding of the politics of popular culture.

 

A Longer View

 

Social change organizations often have a precarious existence.Frequently dependent on volunteer energy, they are subject to abrupt shifts offortune: loss of funding, changes in the quality of leadership, or a visionthat fails to change with the times. Most of the gay and lesbian organizationsof the 1950s and 1960s did not survive into the 1970s, and many of the leadinggroups that sparked change in the 1970s and early 1980s had disappeared by the1990s. This makes it difficult for a researcher to get a view of change over asubstantial stretch of time.

 

Initially called the National Gay Task Force, NGLTF wasfounded in 1973, during the energetic period of gay liberation following theStonewall Riots and has continued through the administrations of seven Americanpresidents. It was there at the start of the AIDS epidemic and has been deeplyinvolved in the events and campaigns that have seen gay and lesbian issues movefrom the margins of American politics and consciousness to the mainstream. Thislongevity gives the collection unique value to researchers who are trying tounderstand the dimensions and processes of change.

 

Change can be measured by noticing how certain areas ofconcern shift over time. When the Task Force was founded in 1973, a key issuewas the American Psychiatric Associations classification of homosexuality as amental disorder. Another was the Civil Service Commissions blanket prohibitionagainst employing gays and lesbians in any federal job. NGLTF addressed both ofthose issues. When key victories were achieved by the mid-1970s, these issuesfaded from view. In the 1970s, when such problems as police harassment andsodomy law repeal were high on the agenda of activists, there was little talkabout gay and lesbian families. By the end of the 1980s, recognition of gayfamilies was becoming a major plank of the movement. NGLTFs Families Project,founded at the end of the 1980s, chronicles this change in some depth.

 

Because change can be charted by investigating a singleissue or institution over time, the staying power of NGLTF gives thiscollection special worth. Among the topics a researcher might choose toinvestigate over time are those involving the responsiveness of the executiveand legislative branches of the federal government to gay and lesbian issues,and the openness of electoral politics at the national level to gay concerns.

 

In the early years of the Task Force, any meeting with afederal official was considered a great victory. During the Carter presidency(1977-1981), NGLTF was instrumental in the push for simple recognition. Throughits efforts, gay and lesbian activists won their first meeting with a member ofthe White House staff, their first meeting with officials at the Bureau ofPrisons, and their first meeting with the Immigration and NaturalizationService. By the late 1980s and early 1990s, staff members like Kevin Berrill,the director of NGLTFs Anti-Violence Project, and Peri Jude Radecic, then theorganizations legislative director, met, consulted, and worked with federalofficials on a routine basis. The staff reports, correspondence, and projectfiles offer ample evidence of how gay and lesbian Americans have gained accessto the makers and shapers of policy at the national level over the course oftwo decades.

 

A similar trajectory of change can be discerned by lookingat the material in the collection relating to national elections. In 1976, JeanOLeary, then the co-executive director of the organization, formed a nationalconvention project as a way of creating an opening for a gay voice in thepresidential campaigns and in the shaping of national party platforms. At thetime, gays and lesbians were definitely outsiders. Slowly but steadily, onepresidential election after another, the Task Force continued to push forrecognition. It surveyed candidates, worked to get openly gay and lesbiandelegates into the national conventions, and plotted strategy for winninginclusion of gay planks in the platforms of the parties. The Subject Files in Series Four offer the researcher much in the way ofevidence to document these political changes over time.

 

National in ItsConcerns, Nationwide in Its Reach

 

From its inception, much of the work of the gay and lesbianmovement has been local. Key issues, such as police harassment in the 1970s orhomophobic violence in the 1980s and 1990s, are most effectively addressed byorganizations with roots in a community. Also, gays and lesbians have expendedmuch energy establishing and sustaining community-based institutions: communitycenters that provide meeting places and a sense of home; social service groupsthat offer assistance to homeless youth, substance abusers, and seniors; healthclinics offering medical care that is sensitive to the needs of the targetpopulation.

 

Some problems, however, require a national response. TheAIDS epidemic is one such problem. No matter how many volunteers an AIDSservice organization has or how supportive the municipal government may prove,local resources are not enough to address a national public health crisis. Inthe 1980s, at a time when homophobia was endemic to American institutions, manywere outraged at the tepid national response to the AIDS crisis, although fewwere surprised. The gay community responded with intensive lobbying, widespreadeducation, the building of broad-based political coalitions, and themobilization of constituents in order to change American policy in combatingthe deadly disease.

 

As these organizational records make clear, NGLTF played akey role in shaping a national lobbying effort and extracting a major responseto perhaps the most serious public health threat of the times from a reluctantfederal government. Virginia Apuzzo, the executive director during the earlyyears of the epidemic, made the fight against AIDS the organizations toppriority. Her appearances before Congressional committees were among the veryfirst in history by someone openly lesbian or gay. For several years, JeffLevi, whom Apuzzo hired as a lobbyist and who succeeded her as executivedirector, was the leading AIDS activist in Washington, D.C. Because of theurgency of the effort to stop the spread of AIDS, the gay and lesbian movementfinally became a significant presence on the national scene. NGLTF was centralboth to this process of growth and to shaping national AIDS policy during the1980s.

 

As an organization intent on influencing the policies of thefederal government, NGLTF also understood the importance of mobilizing the manyhundreds - indeed thousands - of local groups and communities. Because itreached outward to the grassroots even as it pushed toward the center ofgovernment, its records offer a window into the history of local gay andlesbian organizations and the growth of local and state gay advocacy efforts.Peri Jude Radecic, the legislative director in the late 1980s and early 1990s,created a report card system for grading the voting record of every member ofCongress on gay issues. She then distributed these to local organizations whosemembers made constituent visits all over the country. Staff members traveledaround the country providing technical assistance to put local gay groups on amore secure footing. In states that still had sodomy laws - like NorthCarolina, Missouri, and Tennessee - Sue Hyde, the director of NGLTFs privacyproject, worked with activists to press for repeal. The travel files of MelindaParas and Kerry Lobel, executive directors in the mid-to-late 1990s, reveal howwidespread NGLTFs ties were with lesbian and gay organizations throughout theUnited States. Thus, these papers not only offer a view of the Washingtonscene, but of many local communities as well.

 

What Is a TaskForce Anyway?

 

When NGLTF was founded in 1973, the need for a national gayand lesbian organization was vast, but the resources at hand for responding tothat need were small. The founders knew that the organization would not be ableto do everything. Instead, they imagined it as a series of task forces puttogether to deal with the shifting priorities of the movement and the moststrategically pressing needs. As a result, the organizations records open upfor researchers some of the most critical issues that the gay and lesbiancommunity has faced since the 1970s.

 

AIDS was one such issue. It would not be possible to writean informed history of the epidemic and the political response to it withoutconsulting this collection. In 1998, the brutal murder of Matthew Shepherd, aUniversity of Wyoming college student, brought national attention to the issueof homophobic violence and antigay hate crimes, but the problem had beengrowing in scope since the 1970s. As more and more lesbians and gay men cameout of the closet, they became easier targets of violence. In cities like NewYork and San Francisco, with large well-organized gay communities, antiviolenceprojects formed at the end of the 1970s, but elsewhere, the problem was growingfaster than the response to it. AIDS compounded the danger since the epidemicinitially increased public intolerance toward gays.

 

In the early 1980s, Kevin Berrill came to work at NGLTFfirst as a volunteer, and then as a staff member. He stayed for a decade.Berrill made combating antigay violence the focus of his work. He helpedactivists around the country launch campaigns to address the problem in theirlocal communities. He worked with law enforcement agencies everywhere. InWashington, D.C., he cooperated with civil rights organizations like the NAACPand Anti-Defamation League, both of which had established credentials combatinghate crimes motivated by racial and religious prejudice. In 1990, Berrillswork helped win passage of the Hate Crimes Statistics Act, the firstgay-affirmative piece of federal legislation in history. Researchers using theNGLTF collection can trace the emergence of this issue and the growth ofnational organizing around it. The staff reports written by Berrill in SeriesOne, the Field Files of the Anti-Violence Project in Series Two, and materialin the Subject Files in Series Four all speakto the issue.

 

NGLTF focused attention on other issues as well. Its PrivacyProject was aimed at the repeal of state sodomy laws. Its Families Projectraised the visibility of such issues as domestic partnership benefits,parenting rights for lesbians and gays, and issues around adoption and fostercare. Its Campus Project provided assistance to student groups at colleges anduniversities around the country. In the 1990s, its Fight the Right Projectworked with local and state activists to combat antigay referendum campaigns.No other set of records sheds as much light on nationally organized efforts toaddress these and other concerns.

 

Organizations Matter

 

Try to imagine the history of the African American civilrights movement without the NAACP and its challenge to segregation in publiceducation, which culminated in the historic Brownv. Board of Education decision in 1954. Imagine it without the Congress ofRacial Equality and the Freedom Rides that it organized. Imagine Martin LutherKing, Jr., without the support of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference,which mobilized ministers throughout the South. Organizations are criticalcomponents of the history of any successful social movement.

 

This microfilm collection allows researchers to reconstructthe history of the premier national organization of the gay and lesbianmovement. In the three decades since the founding of NGLTF, other organizations- some even larger - have joined the ranks of institutional advocates for gayand lesbian rights, but none has had either the continuity or the reach ofNGLTF. This organization has the distinction of having a national presence,working closely with scores of local communities, and handling a broad range ofissues. A perusal of the correspondence files of its Executive Directorsreveals enough material to suggest the reach of its efforts and the depth ofits activist networks and concerns.

 

These papers are an invaluable aid for understanding thedynamics of any social movement organization over a relatively long period oftime. The collection records how NGLTF decided its priorities, which internaldebates it engaged in, how important strong leadership was to the effectivenessof the organization, where the money came from to perform the work of gayactivism at the national level, and what kinds of crises confronted theorganization. Many of the questions that historians and social scientists askabout advocacy organizations can be explored by using this collection.

 

The staff reports in Series One are especially rich in thisregard. Although the quality and level of detail vary over time, the staffreports from the mid-1980s to mid-1990s are particularly useful. ExecutiveDirectors Jeff Levi and Urvashi Vaid had staff members prepare a writtensummary of their work each month. These reports allowed Levi and Vaid to supervisestaff effectively, but they were also an efficient way of keeping the Board ofDirectors informed about the work of the organization. To the researcher, theyare a gold mine of information. They allow a close inside view of the issues,the campaigns, the conflicts, the victories, and the defeats as these unfoldedover time. The staff reports also provide a window into the personalities ofthese activists. Humor, anger, uncertainty, exhilaration, and a host of otheremotions creep into the writing. The best of these staff reports coincide withthe years from 1987 to 1993, when the AIDS epidemic felt most urgent and thegay and lesbian movement was straining to become a player on the nationalscene. The drama of these years is captured in the work of a singleorganization struggling to make a difference in the world and leave its mark onhistory.

 

John DEmilio
University of Illinois at Chicago

 

 

Organizational History

 

The National Gay and Lesbian TaskForce (NGLTF) was founded in New York City in 1973 as the National Gay TaskForce (NGTF) and quickly became a central force in lesbian and gay movementpolitics. At a time of vibrant grassroots gay liberation and lesbian feministactivism, the Task Force sought to introduce a vehicle for organizing at thenational level. Founding members included Howard Brown, Martin Duberman,Barbara Gittings, Ron Gold, Franklin Kameny, Nathalie Rockhill, and BruceVoeller. In 1977, the Task Force arranged with President Jimmy Cartersassistant Midge Constanza for an historic first White House meeting withrepresentatives of several gay organizations. From its beginnings, the TaskForce defined as its primary goal the creation of a society in which lesbiansand gay men could live openly and free from violence, bigotry, anddiscrimination. Over the last quarter century, NGLTF has lobbied, organized,educated, and demonstrated for full gay and lesbian civil rights and equality,taking on anti-gay and anti-lesbian forces among medical specialists,employers, the military, and the media. The areas in which the NGLTFconcentrated its wide-ranging efforts included the following:

 

Psychiatry

In theearly 1970s, the NGLTF staffed educational booths at American PsychiatricAssociation conventions and took an active role in lobbying the APA to removehomosexuality from its list of mental disorders. In 1978, it urged the U.S.Public Health Service to stop certifying gay immigrants as psychopathicpersonalities. Ron Gold played a key role.

 

Employment and Military Service

In an effort led by board member Frank Kameny to end employmentdiscrimination against lesbians and gay men, the NGTF successfully pushed in1975 for the U.S. Civil Service Commission to rule that gay people can serve asfederal employees. In the late seventies, NGTF staff conducted a survey ofcorporate hiring policies (called Project Open Employment) to determine whetherU.S. employers explicitly barred discrimination on the basis of sexualorientation. This survey was followed a few years later by another of municipalpolice departments. These efforts were complemented by a 1985 victory in theU.S. Supreme Court decision of NGTF v.Oklahoma, which overturned a law prohibiting gay teachers from discussinggay rights. In 1988, the NGLTF started the Military Freedom Project to enddiscrimination against lesbian and gay male members of the U.S. Armed Forces,and it protested the 1993 Dont Ask, Dont Tell policy.

 

Civil Rights

In the 1970s, the NGTF also began to monitor local, state, and federalbattles over gay and lesbian civil rights, developing large clippings filesthat focused on key issues and individuals. These files include clippings onsuch adversaries as Anita Bryant, who led the campaign against a pro-gay andlesbian rights bill in Dade County, Florida, as well as then-Californiagovernor Ronald Reagan, who had proposed an anti-gay amendment to Californiasstate constitution. These records further recount, among other matters, theTask Forces introduction in 1975 of the first federal lesbian and gay civilrights bill, its 1981 campaign to defeat the anti-gay Family Protection Act,its efforts starting in 1986 with the formation of the Privacy Project torepeal anti-gay sodomy laws, and its support in 1992 of local opposition toanti-gay referenda in Oregon and Colorado.

 

Feminism

NGTF women played a critical role in winning support from the mainstreamwomens movement for lesbian and gay rights. They campaigned successfully for alesbian rights resolution at the 1975 national convention of the National Organizationfor Women. In 1977, co-Executive Director Jean OLeary and women board membersobtained endorsement of lesbian and gay rights from the U.S.-sponsoredconference for International Womens Year in Houston, Texas. OLeary was theonly openly lesbian delegate on Carters International Womens Year Commission.At the conference, 130 openly lesbian delegates attended. In 1993, NGLTFenlarged its work on lesbian concerns by coordinating the first congressionalbriefing on lesbian health issues.

 

Gays and Lesbians on Television and in the Arts

Recognizing the benign neglect, if not outright threat to gays and lesbiansfrom how they were represented in the arts, the NGTF closely monitored theimages of gay men and lesbians within the world of television, stage, andscreen. This resulted in the creation of the Gay Media Task Force, which tookon as one of its primary missions the lobbying of major television networks toimprove their coverage of lesbian and gay issues. In the world of the arts, theTask Force actively opposed the anti-gay restrictions on grants from NationalEndowment for the Arts proposed in 1990.

 

Anti-Gay and Lesbian Violence

The Task Force has concentrated on preventing and bringing attention toanti-gay violence over the years. In 1982, it began its Anti-Violence Project,directed in the mid-'80s by Kevin Berrill. In its most focused data-gatheringeffort to date, the NGLTF set up a telephone crisis line designed to provideassistance to people who had been harassed or assaulted, as well as lay thegroundwork for a comprehensive study of violence against lesbians and gay men.NGLTF's Anti-Violence Project produced reports that were regularly cited asauthoritative on the subject of homophobic violence. In 1987, the Task Forcehelped secure passage by the U.S. House of Representatives of the Hate CrimesStatistics Act, the first federal law to address sexual orientation, which wassigned into law in 1990.

 

AIDS

The onset of the AIDS epidemic led to an unforeseen array of politicalstruggles in the early and mid-1980s. NGTF responded early in the developingcrisis, pushing for a statement on national blood policy in 1983 and obtainingthe first federal funding for community-based AIDS education in 1984. NGTF wasinstrumental in negotiating FDA approval of the first HTLV-III antibody test.It also ensured that the test was to be licensed only to professionalphysicians and that it was always to be accompanied by an explanation of thelimits of its accuracy and usefulness. This push for quality medical care alsobrought the benefit of doctor-patient privilege, which proved an enormous boonin light of the sudden explosion in AIDS-related discrimination. NGLTF's fileson AIDS-related discrimination - home evictions, school expulsions, and job terminations- grew with alarming speed in the early years of the epidemic. This wave ofdiscrimination was met by an uncoordinated and seemingly reluctant response tothe epidemic at the federal level. In 1985, NGLTF executive director VirginiaApuzzo would testify before a U.S. Congressional hearing on the abysmal failureof the federal response to AIDS. In 1991, NGLTF staff briefed the CongressionalBlack Caucus on the issue of AIDS and people of color.

 

Political Activism

Although the politics of the epidemic absorbed uncounted days and hours ofenergy at NGTF, the organization continued to grow and change. In 1985, NGTFofficially became the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, a move that markedboth the specificity of lesbian life and politics and the coalition betweenlesbians and gay men. Although the name change cost NGLTF some gay malemembers, it sought to rectify matters by publicly stating the hope that gay menand lesbians could work in tandem as independent but related activists. Oneyear later, NGLTF officially moved its offices from New York to Washington, DC,setting itself up more squarely in the midst of a specifically national lesbianand gay politics.

 

The development of a genuinelynational purview at NGLTF involved more than mere relocation. By the mid-1980sit had become normal for NGLTF staff members - especially its executivedirectors - to spend entire weeks traveling to local lesbian and gay events,lending moral support and the promise of political backing to struggles acrossthe United States. The Task Force helped organize the 1987 and 1993 Marches onWashington to demand lesbian and gay mens rights and worked to increase thevisibility and participation of lesbians and gay men in the presidentialelections at both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions. In 1988,NGLTF held the first Creating Change conference to bring together gay andlesbian activists from around the country. In 1989, NGLTF started publishingcampus organizing newsletters and initiated a Lesbian and Gay Families Projectto advocate for family diversity and acceptance. In the 1990s, NGLTF continuedto offer new networking and training opportunities to strengthen local lesbian,gay, bisexual, and transgendered activism in each state.

 

In 1995, NGLTF evolved furtherand formed the NGLTF Policy Institute, a separate, non-profit organization toserve as a national information clearinghouse and resource center dedicated toeducating and organizing around lesbian and gay mens issues. In 1997, NGLTFchanged its mission statement to include bisexual and transgendered people andlaunched the Federation of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered StatewidePolitical Organizations.

 

 

LIST OF DIRECTORS

 

NGLTF Executive Directors

 

Bruce Voeller, 1973-1979 (co-E.D. with Jean OLeary,1976-79)
Jean O'Leary, 1976-1979 (co-E.D. with Bruce Voeller)
Charles Brydon, 1979-1981 (co-E.D. with Lucia Valeska)
Lucia Valeska, 1979-1982 (co E.D. with Charles Brydon until 1981; 1981-82 assole E.D.)
Virginia Apuzzo, 1982-1985
Rosemary Kuropat, 1985-1986 (Director of Finance and Development)
Jeff Levi, 1985-1989 (Director of Program and Legislative Activities until1986, then sole E.D.)
Urvashi Vaid, 1989-1992
Tori Osborn, 1993
Peri Jude Radecic, 1993-1994
Melinda Lindsey Paras, 1994-1996
Kerry Lobel, 1996-2000
Elizabeth Toledo, 2000-2001
Lorri Jean, 2001-present

 

Policy Institute Directors

 

John DEmilio, 1995-1997
Urvashi Vaid, 1996-2001
Sean Cahill, 2001-present

 

 

EDITORIAL NOTE

 

The intention ofthis note is to describe the more technical aspects of the microformpublication of this research collection.

 

Range of Material

The contents portion of this collection guide describes only the firstseries of the National Gay andLesbian Task Force, 1973-2000.This series comprises the internal files of the National Gay Task Force(NGTF) and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF).

 

Description and Labeling

This collection guide provides the reel number on which materials in eachindividual folder lies. It also provides the box number and folder number fromthe original collection, as housed at Cornell University. Content descriptionsappear at the folder level. In creating the original finding aid, upon whichthis collection guide is based, staff at Cornell University used folder headingsas originally provided by NGTF and NGLTF. When such descriptions were notprovided, staff at Cornell University supplied descriptions of the folderscontents.

 

NGLTF labeled folders originals when they containedmaterial that were later to be photocopied and distributed. These files oftencontained original press releases, newspaper clippings, or magazine articles oritems related to NGLTFs work. An original served as what was also called amaster copy for general use by NGLTF staff.

 

Unfilmed, Unpublished, and Restricted Materials

In this collection guide, a description for the entire collection appears,even though portions of the collection have not been microfilmed forpublication. Information about these portions of the collection has beenincluded in order to provide the researcher with a complete picture of thecollection and allow the researcher the opportunity to make an informeddecision about whether personal inspection of the collection is warranted.

 

Three types of materials have notbeen published for reasons of research need, privacy, and copyright.

 

Research Need: Certain materials have not been microfilmedlargely because of their relatively low priority with respect to researchneeds. Examples of such materials from National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, 1973-2000, include ledger books and folders ofcash receipts.

 

Privacy: Inthe interest of protecting the privacy of individuals, personnel files andrecords that contain persons social security numbers or personal financial informationhave not been filmed. Access to individuals items of this nature at CornellUniversity is restricted for fifty years after their assumed creation.

 

Copyright:Publications by non-NGLTF-affiliated organizations were not microfilmed fordistribution for copyright reasons. However, preservation copies of much ofthis copyright-protected material are available for use at the Human SexualityCollection at Cornell University.

 

 

Recording Unfilmed/Unpublished Materials

An asterisk at the beginning of a folder description, with a note at theend reading not microfilmed is used when an entire folder has not beenmicrofilmed at all, as in the following example:

 

Reel: 7
Box: 4
Folder: 12
Year: 1984

Description: *ApplicantBiographies and form Letters not microfilmed

 

An asterisk at the beginning of afolder description that includes the notice publications in parentheses,indicates that the entire folder comprises publications that have not beenmicrofilmed for distribution. However, these items will appear in themicrofilmed preservation copy of copyright-protected publications from National Gay and Lesbian Task Force,1973-2000 housed atCornell University. The following entry is a representative example of thistype of entry.

 

Reel: 69
Box: 188
Folder: 28
Year: 1983-84

Description: *Hispanic Task Forceand Lambda (Publications) not microfilmed

 

Whenever a selected folder from agroup of folders that have been cataloged together as a unit has not beenmicrofilmed, that individual folder will be singled out in a note, as appearsbelow:

 

Reel: 63
Box: 42
Folder: 3-6
Year: 1991

Description: An Evening Under theStars, Los Angeles (*Folder 5 not microfilmed)

 

Whenever selected publicationsfrom a folder of materials have been excluded from microfilming, these itemswill appear in the preservation copy of copyright-protected publications from National Gay and Lesbian Task Force,1973-2000 housed atCornell University, the notice excludes publications will appear inparentheses at the end of the description, as appears below:

 

Reel: 67
Box: 187
Folder: 14
Year: 1982
Description: Mel Boozer; Commission on Civil Rights, Sam Hart Nomination(excludes Publications)