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History Remembered Before It Falls Away

February 18, 2004

To the Editor:

I appreciate Joe Kennedy’s recent letter to the editor correcting the historical record on the introduction of the Gay Rights bill in the New York City Council by the late Carter Burden and myself because it remains one of the proudest acts of my life.

I don’t think people today can fully understand how lonely we all felt in those days or how few friends we had.

We knew, however, that we were at the beginning of a social revolution that would change lives for the better in this country. Sometimes people in the gay movement would get impatient over the slow progress, but I would remind them: “We aren’t just trying to pass a piece of legislation. We are using a legislative issue to force a moral confrontation and to change minds.”

By cunning and cajolery, Carter and I were able to get three public hearings on Intro 475, when the conventional wisdom was that the bill would be buried so deep that it would never be heard from.

The attribution of the bill to Ed Koch is particularly ironic because, while he supported the bill, one of his close political associates, who represented Greenwich Village in the City Council, was a bitter, if clandestine, opponent. In fact, she was rather put out when she heard in early 1970, that I was even going sit down with people from the Mattachine Society and the Daughters of Billitis and have a civil conversation.

But perhaps history is written by the winners: Ed became mayor and I became president-elect… of the National Society of Accountants.

But I am glad that a few people remember the truth.

Eldon R. Clingan

Via e-mail

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