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Community Pioneers
Creators of Washington, DC's Gay Community

PAUL KUNTZLER (2007 awardee)

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Arrived in Washington in 1961.
Photo © Patsy Lynch

"... my striving motivation in the Kameny campaign [and] with the formation of GAA, [the Gay Activists Alliance] 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.”

“We began with the McGovern campaign.  It was a process of educating and conditioning people to our issues and our presence.  And every time we came back it got easier the next time.  We were establishing precedents ...”

Paul Kuntzler, a lifelong gay activist and political strategist, created a place for the gay community within local and national politics.  To a large extent he set the stage for the emergence of our local gay community as a significant player and coalition builder in Washington, DC's politics and power structure.  Kuntzler was in at the creation of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance and the Gertrude Stein Democratic club.  His partisan interests have always been expressed through the Democratic Party.

Kuntzler arrived from Detroit in 1961 in the wake of John Kennedy's election, joining the Mattachine Society of Washington (MSW) soon thereafter.  By April 1962, he was a member of MSW's board and participated in the planning and execution of many MSW campaigns.  As campaign manager of the 1971 Kameny for Congress campaign, Kuntzler marshaled resources and support from DC, New York, and Philadelphia.  The Kameny campaign demonstrated to Washington's political community the strength of the local gay community voting bloc.

Kuntzler played a prominent role in the creation of the non-partisan Gay Activists Alliance in 1971 and as co-founder of the gay partisan Gertrude Stein Democratic Club in 1976.  In the intervening five years, Kuntzler involved himself in local and national Democratic Party activities, pushing for inclusion of gay rights planks and members in Democratic Party conventions in 1972, 1976, and 1980.   He was equally active within the DC Americans for Democratic Action chapter, where he became a board member in 1973 and chair in 1976.

In Marion Barry's first campaign for Mayor, Kuntzler and the Stein group organized volunteers to man phones and work for the campaign.  In post election analysis, Kuntzler demonstrated that 21 precincts in heavily gay neighborhoods had carried the day for Barry demonstrating the growing political significance of the community.

Kuntzler's involvement in local political campaigns hit another high point with his involvement in Jim Zais' campaign for a seat on the DC Council in 1971.  Zais' run for the Ward 2 council seat was the first strong effort by a member of the gay community to represent the needs and wishes of an entire ward.

 

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