National Gay Task Force Is Formed Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The National Gay Task Force was the first major national organization dedicated to lesbian and gay civil rights. In addition to successfully pressuring the American Psychiatric Association in 1973 to remove “homosexuality” from its list of mental disorders, the group’s work includes helping to repeal antisodomy laws, and, reflecting its mission to be politically active at the grassroots level, it established the first national gay crisis hotline and conducted the first national survey of homophobic violence.

Summary of Event

The National Gay Task Force (NGTF) was the first national gay and lesbian civil rights advocacy organization. NGTF was founded in 1973 by a group of activists including former New York City health commissioner Howard Brown, Ron Gold, Nath Rockhill, and Bruce Voeller, the latter three of whom were involved in the Gay Activists Alliance. [kw]National Gay Task Force Is Formed (1973) [kw]Gay Task Force Is Formed, National (1973) [kw]Task Force Is Formed, National Gay (1973) National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Gay and Lesbian Task Force, National [c]Organizations and institutions;1973: National Gay Task Force Is Formed[0940] [c]Civil rights;1973: National Gay Task Force Is Formed[0940] Voeller, Bruce Apuzzo, Virginia Levi, Jeffrey Vaid, Urvashi Lobel, Kerry Foreman, Matt

NGTF has played an important role in many of the GLBT movement’s key struggles. In its first year, the organization successfully pressured the American Psychiatric Association American Psychiatric Association;National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and to stop classifying homosexuality as a mental disorder and lobbied the American Bar Association American Bar Association;National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and to support the repeal of sodomy laws. In 1975, the NGTF pressured the federal government to rescind its ban on employment of gays and lesbians and worked with Representative Bella Abzug (Democrat, New York) to introduce the first national gay rights legislation. The following year, NGTF worked to influence the policies of the Democratic Party, and in 1977, codirectors Voeller and Jean O’Leary were among the first GLBT leaders to discuss gay issues at the White House. The NGTF also supported local efforts, including the unsuccessful effort to defeat Dade County, Florida’s, antigay ordinance led by singer and entertainer Anita Bryant.

After a period of decline in the late 1970’s, NGTF, under director Virginia Apuzzo, turned its attention to antigay violence and then, in the early 1980’s, to AIDS. In 1982, the organization initiated its Anti-Violence Project Anti-Violence Project[AntiViolence Project] and went on to establish the first national gay crisis hotline and to conduct the first national survey of homophobic violence. In 1983, NGTF helped start two national advocacy coalitions, AIDS Action AIDS Action and National Organizations Responding to AIDS, National Organizations Responding to AIDS and in 1984 it secured the first federal funding for community-based AIDS groups. At the same time, the NGTF supported more militant activism, such as the 1988 “die-in” staged by the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) ACT UP;National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and outside the Food and Drug Administration building.

In keeping with the organization’s increasing focus on federal-level work, in 1985 NGTF moved its headquarters from New York City to Washington, D.C. That same year, emphasizing its commitment to lesbian issues, the group changed its name to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF). Under Jeffrey Levi’s direction, the NGLTF renewed its efforts to repeal state sodomy laws following the U.S. Supreme Court’s Bowers v. Hardwick ruling (1986). NGLTF helped organize the October, 1987, March on Washington, March on Washington (1987) and members of its staff were among the seven hundred GLBT leaders arrested in a massive act of civil disobedience outside the Supreme Court. The NGLTF launched its Military Freedom Project Military Freedom Project in 1988, followed by the Families Project Families Project in 1989.

In the early 1990’s, under director Urvashi Vaid, the NGLTF increasingly devoted itself to grassroots organizing—a shift that began in 1988 with the first annual Creating Change Conference, Creating Change Conferences dedicated to training new movement leaders and promoting networking among activists. In 1992, NGLTF launched its Fight the Right Project, Fight the Right Project, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and staff members traveled widely to support local GLBT groups fighting antigay state and municipal legislation and ballot initiatives.

In the mid-1990’s, NGLTF went through a period of internal struggle. Three directors (Torie Osborn, Peri Rude Radecic, and Melinda Paras) came and went in quick succession, and the organization’s staff and budget decreased by half. Nevertheless, in 1995, NGLTF launched its Policy Institute, Policy Institute, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force envisioned as a think tank for the GLBT movement.

NGLTF experienced a resurgence in the latter half of the decade. Under the direction of Kerry Lobel, the organization rekindled its emphasis on local organizing, spearheading in March of 1999 Equality Begins at Home, a series of 350 coordinated public forums, demonstrations, and lobbying events in all fifty states. True to her politics of inclusion, Lobel oversaw the adoption of a new vision statement in 1997 that explicitly included bisexuals and transgender people.

In 2000, NGLTF appointed a controversial new director, Elizabeth Toledo, Toledo, Elizabeth who had just divorced her husband and come out of the closet the year before. Toledo was succeeded in 2001 by Lorri Jean, who stabilized the organization’s finances and, according to some, took the NGLTF in a more conservative direction. In April, 2003, NGLTF appointed Matt Foreman as its director, and Jean returned in 2003 to Los Angeles as the executive director of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center.

Significance

Along with the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), NGLTF remains one of the two primary national GLBT advocacy organizations. While HRC emphasizes Washington, D.C., politics and national legislation, NGLTF focuses on grassroots activism and coalition building. This emphasis has put NGLTF at the center of various controversies concerning the nature of the GLBT movement as a whole, controversies such as the relative value of moderate “insider” politics versus radical “outsider” activism. A recurring debate revolves around whether the GLBT movement should focus on gay-specific identity politics or on broader, multi-issue social justice activism. The latest round of the debate took place in the fall of 2002, as left-leaning progressives successfully pressured NGLTF to take a stance against the then-impending invasion of Iraq, while more conservative individuals urged the organization to stick to GLBT issues. NGLTF also supports racial and economic justice, reproductive freedom, and abolition of the death penalty.

Over the years, NGLTF has periodically shifted its focus back and forth from national advocacy to local grassroots organizing—and from “insider” to “outsider” politics—and at times has tried with varying degrees of success to maintain a balance between the two. NGLTF now is widely regarded as the national organization representing the progressive wing of the GLBT movement. The NGLTF’s current vision statement, adopted in 1997, unequivocally positions the organization as “part of a broader social justice movement for freedom, justice and equality.” National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Gay and Lesbian Task Force, National

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">D’Emilio, John. “Organizational Tales: Interpreting the NGLTF Story.” In The World Turned: Essays on Gay History, Politics, and Culture. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2002.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">D’Emilio, John, William Turner, and Urvashi Vaid, eds. Creating Change: Sexuality, Public Policy, and Civil Rights. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. “Task Force History.” http://www.thetaskforce.org/aboutus/history.cfm.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Vaid, Urvashi. Virtual Equality: The Mainstreaming of Gay and Lesbian Liberation. New York: Anchor Books, 1995.

1950: Mattachine Society Is Founded

1952: ONE, Inc., Is Founded

1955: Daughters of Bilitis Founded as First National Lesbian Group in United States

May 27-30, 1960: First National Lesbian Conference Convenes

February 19-20, 1966: First North American Conference of Homophile Organizations Convenes

April 19, 1967: First Student Homophile League Is Formed

August 11-18, 1968: NACHO Formally Becomes the First Gay Political Coalition

July 31, 1969: Gay Liberation Front Is Formed

June 28, 1970: First Lesbian and Gay Pride March in the United States

November 28, 1970: Del Martin Quits Gay Liberation Movement

October 18, 1973: Lambda Legal Authorized to Practice Law

March 5, 1974: Antigay and Antilesbian Organizations Begin to Form

1977: Anita Bryant Campaigns Against Gay and Lesbian Rights

April 22, 1980: Human Rights Campaign Fund Is Founded

1989: Vaid Becomes Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

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