FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | February 18, 2007
(San Francisco, CA, February 18, 2007) —
It's just a year shy of fifty, but the work of Barbara Gittings would have fooled you. In terms of social progress, Gittings' activism could have spanned more than a century.
Since 1958, Gittings who died Sunday at age 75 from breast cancer was a true pioneer for gay and lesbian people all over the world. That year only three after the nation decided blacks and whites could attend public school together Gittings founded the New York chapter of the Daughter's of Bilitis, the nation's first lesbian organization. Fifteen years later during a turning point in psychiatric medicine and the development of neuroscience she successfully advocated the removal of homosexuality from the list of mental disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association. And sometime in between these two monumental accomplishments and during a heyday of shifting in the American workplace she had time to help found the first gay and lesbian association in a professional organization: The GLBT Round Table of the American Library Association.
Indeed, it was Gittings' perseverance in the face of professional and social adversity that made her a singular pioneer and landmark leader.
"Barbara risked her reputation, career and future in fighting for the most basic dignity and protection for the lesbian and gay community," says Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which honored Gittings at its 26th Anniversary Gala in 2003.
"Her fight-to end discrimination in federal employment, to stop treating gay people as sick, to permit us to be honest about who we were-resulted in changes that many of us now take for granted. She was a hero and pioneer, but more than all that she was authentic, joyful and relentlessly optimistic. We owe her a debt that can never be repaid."
That relentless optimism will be her legacy as the current LGBT community continues to work toward fairness in the eyes of the law. She is survived by her longtime partner of 46 years, Kay Lahausen.
Kendell adds, "Our hearts go out to the love of her life for 46 years, Kay Lahausen. Barbara's life and contributions must never be forgotten. We stand on her shoulders."
The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.