Carolyn Wagner, a gay rights activist dedicated to fighting antigay hate crimes and the founder of Families United Against Hate, died Monday after a long battle against cancer and hepatitis.
In 1996, after months of watching her 16-year-old son, William, endure antigay bullying and attacks, she and her family enlisted the help of Lambda Legal and filed a complaint with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.
The department eventually ruled that Title IX guidelines on sexual harassment can be invoked to protect gay students against some forms of abuse. The Wagners’ Fayetteville, Ark., school district later agreed to take steps to prevent “harassment against gay and lesbian students.”
Wagner founded Families United to provide assistance to families and individuals dealing with incidents based on bias. She was also a former vice-president of Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.
“Carolyn will be remembered as an activist and civil rights hero to many, but for me she was simply the love of my life, my best friend and an amazing mother to our children,” her husband, Bill Wagner, said in a statement. “I will miss her beautiful smile, her raucous and infectious laugh and most of all her loving heart.”