Jerry Weller, Longtime LGBT Rights Activist, Dies at 69

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Gerald K. “Jerry” Weller Jr., a longtime LGBT rights activist and founding board member of the Human Rights Campaign’s predecessor organization, has died at age 69.

Weller died July 8 in Portland, Ore., The Oregonian reports.

In the early 1980s, Weller had served as the cochair of the Gay Rights National Lobby — the predecessor of the Human Rights Campaign — and as GRNL’s acting executive director.

"With Jerry Weller's passing, our community has lost another giant,” said Vic Basile, HRC’s first executive director, in a press release. “When few of us had the courage to be out and fighting the good fight, Jerry was there, ready to lead or simply to lend a helping hand. He was spirited, brave, and selfless.”

A native of Pittsburgh, Weller began his activist career in Oakland, Calif., where he was an organizing member of Gays of Oakland for Bobby Seale for Mayor in 1973, according to his obituary in The Oregonian. He then moved to Portland, where in 1976 he became executive director of the Portland Town Council, Oregon’s first legislative gay rights organization. In 1982 he founded the Right to Privacy PAC, which grew into the largest LGBT political action committee in Oregon.

In 1983 he left Portland for his job with the Gay Rights National Lobby in Washington, D.C., then in 1984-85 was CEO of Chicago’s Howard Brown Memorial Clinic (now Howard Brown Health Center), which specializes in HIV and other LGBT health issues. His partner, Bruce Muller, was diagnosed with AIDS in 1986, and Weller returned to Oregon to assist in his care, The Oregonian reports. Muller died in 1991.

Weller subsequently held positions with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Oregon Health Division, and the Oregon Bureau of Labor Civil Rights Division. He retired from state employment in 2007. He continued to serve on the board of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon and was editor of the Portland LGBT newspaper City Week.

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