(known since 1986 as the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance)
A local, all-volunteer, non-partisan, non-profit political organization to advance the equal rights of gay men and lesbians in Washington, DC
On April 20, 1971 Washington, DC's gay community (as it was increasingly being described in the local press) gained a powerful new advocate: the Gay Activists Alliance (GAA). Inspired by New York's Gay Activists Alliance, the new group was a direct consequence of Dr. Franklin E. Kameny's 1971 campaign for a new non-voting seat in the House of Representatives.
|Paul Kuntzler (Kameny campaign manager):
"... my striving motivation in the Kameny campaign, with the formation of GAA, was always to try to make the political community, the whole apparatus, responsive to the concerns of gay people ... this was our notice to the DC public that we were here, we were going to do something, and you are either going to accept us or you’re going to be in deep trouble because we were going to vote you people out. And that was our power."April 30, 2001 Rainbow History Project panel discussion
The Kameny campaign roused Washington, DC's political community and press to a new awareness of the 'gay community' in its midst, and most importantly to the actual and potential political power of a gay and lesbian voting bloc in the city. Though Dr. Kameny did not win the elections, the results demonstrated that the newly discovered voting bloc could significantly influence election contests.
Waging the campaign exposed the volunteers to a new style of gay and lesbian civil rights organization that would prove to be the successor to the Gay Liberation Front organizations in both New York and Washington. In the course of collecting signatures on a petition to register Dr. Kameny for the March 23rd election, the Kameny for Congress committee called on GAA in New York for volunteers to help collect signatures for the Kameny nominating petition. GAA-New York responded strongly with support that made the petition drive a success.
Following the election and using funds left over from the campaign, members of the Kameny campaign went to New York City to meet with GAA-New York and discuss organization of a Gay Activists Alliance in Washington, DC. Back in Washington, discussions continued until a Tuesday, April 20, 1971 meeting at Jim McClard's apartment on 25th St (between K and Pennsylvania) where the organization formed. McClard became the first president of the new civil rights organization. Joel Martin, Cliff Witt and David Livingstone were among the most ardent advocates for forming the group.
|Joel Martin, a member of the Kameny for Congress committee and second
president of the Gay Activists Alliance, recalled :
"Paul [Kuntzler], Jim McCard, Cliff Witt, myself, Tony Jackubosky and David Livingstone and someone else I don’t remember, got together and based on the fact that we had seen what GAA had done in Washington about coming down to help us with the Kameny campaign ... by that time we had also gotten to know the main players in New York. … In any case, we got together and said well look, we could do the same thing here and that’s really the way that GAA came into existence ... "April 30, 2001 Rainbow History Project panel discussion
|Paul Kuntzler and Dr. Franklin E. Kameny discussed events leading to
the formation of the Gay Activists Alliance of Washington, DC:
Kuntzler: We had a surplus from the Kameny campaign and we used that partly to buy the Amtrak tickets for six of us to travel to New York, we had other money.April 30, 2001 Rainbow History Project panel discussion
THE FIRST YEARS
(continues on next page, click on 'years' above)
Help Rainbow History Preserve Our History! Donate