Growing the grass roots

Coming back from a slump in the 1990s, the 32-year-old National Gay and Lesbian Task Force aims to take the lead in aiding local organizing. In a time of “terrible trouble,” NGLTF is in it for the long haul

BY Greg Hernandez

July 05 2005 12:00 AM ET

Foreman, who has
headed the group since April 2003, has been known to be
outspoken and sometimes brash during a 25-year career that
had previously been spent mostly in high-profile posts
in New York City, where he lives with his partner of
14 years, Francisco De Leon.

For five years he
was executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda
in New York, the largest statewide lesbian and gay political
advocacy and civil rights organization in the country,
the driving force behind a 2003 statewide law banning
discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Foreman also served as executive director of the New York
City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project from the
early to mid 1990s. Last year he resigned from the New
York City Commission on Human Rights to protest Mayor
Michael Bloomberg’s decision to go to court to
prevent the city’s Equal Benefits Law from
going into effect.

Foreman also
minced no words in May when he called on embattled Spokane,
Wash., mayor Jim West, a closeted gay man, to resign his
office. West, who had built his career on conservative
stands, including vocal support for antigay laws, is
accused of offering City Hall jobs to young men he met
online. West, who has admitted to secret sexual liaisons
with other men, also faces accusations that he
molested two young boys in the 1970s.

Foreman, calling
West’s alleged behavior “predatory and
appalling,” said in a press release,
“This man, whether he’s straight, bisexual, or
gay, deserves nothing but scorn. He needs to resign
immediately.”

Born in Idaho,
Foreman is the son of a miner and grew up in various
states across the country, including Montana, Wyoming, and
West Virginia. “I came out in West Virginia in
the 1970s. I’m always aware of how difficult it
still is for some people across this country,” he
says. “I really try never to allow the
experience and privilege of living in cities like New
York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. I always try to
tell people who live in cities not to forget where they came
from and the gay people who are still there.”

He adds,
“We really try and embrace the entire community, not
just the people who live in homes with white picket
fences or who aspire to that. Drag queens, leather
people, motorcycle dykes. They are embraced. We
embrace them all.”

Founded 32 years
ago to eliminate prejudice, violence, and injustice
against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people,
NGLTF works to build grassroots political power by
training state and local activists and leaders and
strengthening the infrastructure of state and local
groups. It also battles discrimination, harassment, and
sodomy laws and fights for AIDS funding. During
Foreman’s tenure, the once-struggling
organization has stabilized. The size of the board of
directors has more than doubled, the staff has grown
by one third, and a new department has been added to
focus on federal affairs. NGLTF currently claims about
20,000 members. Its 50 full-time employees work out of four
locations: the organization’s headquarters in
Washington, D.C., and offices in New York City, Los
Angeles, and Cambridge, Mass.

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