Pioneer Gay rights activist Barbara Gittings at the first homosexual rights demonstration, Independence Hall, Philadelphia, July 4, 1965.
Feb. 19 (Bloomberg) — Barbara Gittings, one of the earliest activists to push the U.S. government to provide homosexuals with equal rights, has died. She was 75.
Gittings died yesterday at 7:25 p.m. in Kennet Square, Pennsylvania, after a lengthy battle with breast cancer, said friend Mark Segal, publisher of Philadelphia Gay News. She is survived by her partner of 46 years, Kay Lahusen, and sister Eleanor Gittings Taylor.
In 1965, Gittings and several gay men and lesbians were the first to hold demonstrations outside the White House for equal rights for homosexuals. She later played a key role in the American Psychiatric Association removing homosexuality from its list of mental disorders in 1973.
“Gay people didn’t have a face until Barbara started demonstrating in 1965,” Segal said. “Up until that point, no gay face had been seen in the newspaper, on television, or in the movies.”
Her first involvement in the gay rights movement started in the 1950s when she helped form the New York City chapter of the early lesbian organization Daughters of Bilitis.
Around the same time, Gittings became estranged from her family, which didn’t approve of her championing of gay rights, Segal said.
“In those days, many gay activists were literally disowned by their family,” Segal said.
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[Photo Kay Tobin Lahusen]