Press

Task Force mourns death of Eric Rofes, a leader, activist and visionary

Date: 
June 27, 2006

MEDIA CONTACT:
Roberta Sklar, Director of Communications
media@theTaskForce.org
646.358.1465

WASHINGTON, June 27 — The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force mourns the death of Eric Rofes, a leader, activist, visionary, former board member and dear friend to the Task Force. He died yesterday as the result of a heart attack.

“Words cannot express the loss we all feel. For more than 30 years, Eric was our movement’s visionary. He pushed us to be better, to never lose sight of what our movement for liberation is all about, and to love each other, fight for each other and celebrate our community. He was an organizer without par, a brilliant thinker and writer, and above all else, a wonderful person and friend. Our hearts go out to his partner Crispin Hollings and all the members of his extended family.” — Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

“Eric Rofes was one of the most extraordinary voices in our community. He spoke — and suffused others — with the joy of being who we are. His leadership in the communities where he lived, and in the national community, contributed enormously to our understanding of the need for honest discussions about the LGBT community and its issues. Eric’s death is a loss to all of us, of a rare voice of truth.” — Task Force board member Loren Ostrow, co-chair of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center

"Eric fought fiercely and organized tirelessly for our freedoms to love, to live and to thrive. His leadership and energy guided much early organizing in Boston. Eric and other Boston organizers morphed into the famed ‘Boston Mafia,’ a cadre of activists who left the city and assumed leadership positions in LGBT and AIDS organizations in New York, Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Los Angeles. I met Eric at Gay Community News in 1983 when, as a greenhorn from the Midwest, I was honored to learn and grow in his political light and determination to change the social and political space we queerfolk occupy. Eric's circles of friends go far beyond Boston, and he will always be remembered as a world changer who showed us the way. No better memorial can be built to him than to walk his path to freedom, to liberation and to democracy." — Sue Hyde, director of the Task Force’s Creating Change conference

“Eric Rofes was a strong feminist who was never afraid to put his privilege on the line for those around him. He bore witness to every major issue for three decades as he talked about war, homelessness, HIV, violence, health, reframing our families, sex and sexuality. His gentle spirit will be sorely missed.” — Kerry Lobel, former executive director of the Task Force

About Eric Rofes

Eric Rofes started his activism in the 1970s in Boston where he worked on Gay Community News . He was a founder of Boston's first group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) teachers, two of the first LGBT youth groups in the country and the first Boston-based group focused on organizing gay and lesbian voters (Boston Lesbian and Gay Political Alliance). He was a founding member of the Boston Men's Childcare Collective, which provided childcare at women's music concerts and shelters for battered women. He was an elected delegate to the 1980 White House Conference on the Family.

From October 1985 to April 1988, Rofes served as executive director of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center, the largest LGBT nonprofit organization in the world. The center initiated some of the nation's first HIV prevention programs, created a shelter for LGBT and homeless youth and opened the first and largest HIV testing site in California. In 1989, Rofes became executive director of Shanti Project, a pioneering AIDS service group in San Francisco.

He served as a member of the Los Angeles AIDS Commission and the San Francisco Ryan White Council, and was a board member of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force from 1989 to 1994, the National Lesbian & Gay Health Association and the Funding Exchange's OutFund for Gay Liberation. Rofes co-chaired the Southern California No on LaRouche Committee, which successfully defeated a statewide AIDS quarantine initiative. At the time of his death, he served on the board of the Woodhull Freedom Foundation.

He led the organizing of three national summits focused on the health and wellness of gay male communities, including the most recent summit in October 2005 in Salt Lake City. From 1999 to the time of his death, Rofes was an associate professor of education at Humboldt State University in Arcata, Calif.

He was a major contributor to the Task Force’s Creating Change conference, which he attended annually and where he presented some of the most challenging and stimulating material.

In addition, he published 12 books, including Reviving the Tribe: Regenerating Gay Men's Sexuality and Culture in an Ongoing Epidemic (Haworth, 1996) and Dry Bones Breathe: Gay Men Creating Post-AIDS Identities and Cultures (Haworth, 1998).

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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.