Press

Task Force mourns the loss of Rodger McFarlane, friend and leader in the LGBT movement

Date: 
May 18, 2009

MEDIA CONTACT:
Pedro Julio Serrano, Communications Coordinator
(Office) 646.358.1479
(Cell) 787.602.5954
pjserrano@theTaskForce.org

Goodbye, Rodger

Rodger McFarlane, dear friend and leader, already deeply missed

WASHINGTON, May 18 — The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, along with friends and colleagues in the LGBT and HIV/AIDS movements, mourn the loss of Rodger McFarlane. McFarlane took his own life on Friday, May 15, in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.

Statement by Rea Carey, Executive Director
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

"Rodger lived a life larger than even his own imposing physical self and prodigious intellect. His triumphs as a leader of LGBT and HIV/AIDS organizations leave a legacy of success, determination and fierce dedication for all of us. Rodger is already deeply missed. If you ever met Rodger, you never forgot him. He provoked us all to think differently, to see differently and to push for more of what our communities deserve. We are stunned and saddened over the tragic loss of this inestimable leader, thinker and visionary."

About Rodger McFarlane

Among McFarlane's extraordinary record of accomplishments, he will be remembered and revered for his early leadership driving resources to build a community-based system of care and compassion for people living with HIV/AIDS. McFarlane was the first executive director of Gay Men's Health Crisis in New York City, standing tall as a rock of strategy, energy and stability while the LGBT community learned to cope with a health crisis of unthinkable proportions. McFarlane brought his vision and vigor to solving the vexing problems wrought by the epidemic, including building client services and safer sex education programs that became models of compassion and efficiency for other ravaged communities. McFarlane served as president emeritus of Bailey House, the nation's first and largest provider of housing for homeless people living with HIV/AIDS.

McFarlane led Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS (BC/EFA), forging one of the most successful and influential AIDS fundraising and grant-making organizations. He increased BC/EFA's revenue from under $1 million to $5 million and secured $40 million annually through strategic partnerships with other funders and corporations. A founding member of ACT UP, McFarlane understood that silence about AIDS equaled death for thousands of people. McFarlane was never silent and he helped others raise their voices to quell the howling maelstrom of the AIDS epidemic.

McFarlane also led the Gill Foundation as its executive director. While at Gill, McFarlane brought the foundation into national prominence, understanding that a major funder of the LGBT social justice movement can also serve as a source of vision and inspiration. McFarlane transformed the foundation and the LGBT movement by focusing its funding in the states, strategically investing in the most pressing political projects of our time and building durable alliances with straight allies to further both the LGBT movement and a greater progressive movement. McFarlane's loving and tough vision can be seen in much of the contemporary work and success of the LGBT movement in the United States.

"Rodger was my boss, my mentor and my sturdy guiding hand," said Russell Roybal, the Task Force's deputy executive director of external relations, who worked at the Gill Foundation as its director of training and capacity-building under McFarlane. "A day with Rodger was a day with a force of nature. I was never exactly sure what brilliant ideas would tumble from his active and creative mind, but I was always certain that this unique and astonishing man would change my work and my thinking in the most positive ways. I will love him and miss him forever."

Memorial gatherings celebrating the life of Rodger McFarlane are being planned and organized with details and locations to be announced.

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The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the grassroots power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. We do this by training activists, equipping state and local organizations with the skills needed to organize broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and 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.