Commentary: On June 25, 1978, I was one of about 6,000 gays and lesbians who gathered in the AstroArena for Town Meeting I. The event was being hailed as Houston’s first celebration of Gay Pride Week.
Far from being an activist, I mainly went to see my political idol, Frances “Sissy” Farenthold, the keynote speaker. I fell in love with Sissy when she ran for governor of Texas in 1972. The former Texas State Representative, gubernatorial candidate, and later vice-presidential nominee, is to this day my political hero. I will always remember her speech to the attentive crowd on that day, with words that included, “We are none of us free unless we all are free. We cannot open the door to some minorities while denying access to others.”
Also speaking that day was Ray Hill, whom I met for the first time and have many times since. Ray, who turned 78 on October 13, has been an LGBTQ activist since anyone can remember. He co-organized the first gay rights organization in Houston in 1967, according to his Wikipedia biography page.
In 1968 Ray co-founded radio station KPFT-FM and later hosted a call-in show focused on gay issues. In 1977 he helped organize Houston’s largest to date gay rights event. Anti-gay crusader Anita Bryant was in town to address the Texas Bar Association and 12,000 gathered to protest her appearance.
Then a year later, Ray was a prominent figure in organizing the aforementioned Town Meeting I, which directly led to the creation of the Montrose Center and the Gay and Lesbian Switchboard of Houston.
“In 1991 Paul Broussard, a 27-year-old gay Houstonian, was murdered by a group of men on the street. Hill insisted that the murder was a hate crime or ‘gay bashing’ and urged the media to pay attention. He also helped organize Queer Nation, a queer activist group, to protest the murder and the police’s apathy. Hill was active in keeping the case in the public eye and called for the strong punishment of the perpetrators,” reads the Wikipedia page.
In addition to being active in the Lawrence v. Texas case which led to the Supreme Court striking down sodomy laws in the United States, Ray has also been an activist for people with HIV and AIDS, and serves on the board of directors for the FAIR Foundation. Ray is credited as authoring the first safe-sex pamphlet in the United States to help stop the spread of HIV and AIDS.
In recent years, any time an injustice has occurred in our community, Ray has been there to call out those responsible. His is a voice of reason, justice and equality. Ray has mentored countless people over the course of his life and we trust those folks will carry the banner. They’ve been taught well.
As of our press deadline, Ray Hill is in hospice preparing for end-of-life care. With utmost gratitude we extend thanks to Ray for all he has done for our community and wish him a smooth transition.
Here are a few of the top news stories we’ve been reading on the Houston Rainbow Herald Facebook page.
Shooting outside San Antonio club
Violence can and does happen anywhere. A gunman opened fire outside San Antonio gay club Pegasus last week, wounding three people, reports KSAT.com. Bar manager Mike Rodriguez said an argument outside the club was started by someone’s use of a racial slur.
The shooter remains at large at press time.
Trump admin targets same-sex foreign diplomats
For those who believe both of our political parties are the same, this one is for you. “The Trump administration has begun denying visas to same-sex domestic partners of foreign diplomats and United Nations employees, and requiring those already in the United States to get married by the end of the year or leave the country,” reports ForeignPolicy.com.
Foreign diplomats fear the decision will increase hardships for same-sex couples that hail from countries that do not recognize marriage equality. The United Nations Human Resources Chief wrote, “The Department of State will not issue a G-4 visa for same-sex domestic partners. As of 1 October 2018, same-sex domestic partners…seeking to join newly arrived U.N. officials must provide proof of marriage to eligible for a G-4 visa or to seek a change in such status.”
Actor marries partner
Congratulations are in order. “BD Wong, one of the first famous openly gay Asian actors in Hollywood, married his longtime partner, Richard John Frederickson Schnorr,” reports Out.com.
The couple met at a singles event in 2010 and has been dating ever since.
Wong can currently be seen in American Horror Story: Apocalypse and was a recurring regular on the prison series Oz and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.