Jean O'Leary - Leader and Champion

June 06, 2005

Roberta Sklar, Director of Communications

Statement by Matt Foreman, Executive Director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force family mourns the death of Jean O'Leary, our former executive director and life-long champion in the fight for equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Jean served as co-executive director with Bruce Voeller from 1976 to 1979. During her tenure, she organized the first-ever White House meeting with gay and lesbian rights advocates; coordinated the first openly gay presence at a Democratic National Convention; was the first openly-gay or lesbian person appointed to a presidential commission (President Carter's National Commission on the Observance of International Women's Year); and coordinated the passage of resolutions recognizing the rights of lesbians at thirty state women's conferences and at the National Women's Conference in Houston in 1977. She advocated for gay rights in immigration and naturalization law, campaigned to repeal anti-sodomy statues, and advocated with the Federal Communications Commission and the U.S. Civil Rights Commission. In all, her efforts helped make gay rights a national issue in the late 1970s. Her commitments to feminism and anti-racism live on as core values of the Task Force.

Our thoughts are with Jean's partner, Lisa Phelps, other members of her family and her wide circle of friends.

Read Honoring Jean O'Leary, a statement from Senator Dianne Feinstein


The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.