Friday, October 04, 2013

WaPo: Barrett Brick, Global LGBT Advocate, has Died

After asking my friend Barrett Brick, pictured, to attend a meeting I arranged at the U.S. State Department with the analyst who authored the first Congressionally-mandated annual human rights report, he requested I read him the single short gay citation in it over the telephone. Yes, the country-by-country summary first issued in 1991 when George H. Bush was president included one gay mention.

Barrett quickly agreed to attend the meeting with Margaret Cantrell and I of ACT UP/DC at Foggy Bottom and he being a lawyer and a smart activist, he borrowed my copy of the report and read it so he could speak about it knowledgeably and how to improve it.

In April of 1991, neither the Human Rights Campaign Fund nor the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force paid attention to the State Department report, much less saw a way to use it and build awareness of global gay issues.

Barrett strongly believed our top priority with the State Department was to increase inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender global advances and atrocities in the report, which would be of great benefit to our brothers and sisters struggling for any recognition of their plight from the American government.

Just one reporter, syndicated gay journalist Rex Wockner of Windy City Times, covered our meeting with the human rights analyst. The Washington Blade was deeply biased against ACT UP/DC and ignored that important step of advocating at the State Department for global LGBT people and the report.

Recently, Barrett passed away and I reflected back on our friendship. We never let our wildly different approaches to politics and activism get in the way of staying friends and I express my condolences to Barrett's wide circle of friends and family over his death.

The Washington Post today printed a fine obituary written by Megan McDonough about Barrett and here is an excerpt:

Barrett L. Brick, a government lawyer and gay rights advocate who successfully campaigned to include anti-homosexual violence as a staple of the State Department’s annual human rights report, died Sept. 22 at the Manor Care nursing home in Bethesda. He was 59. 

The cause was cancer, said his husband, Antonio Ruffini. 

Mr. Brick, a Washington resident, spent 30 years as a lawyer at the Federal Communications Commission before retiring in 2010. He also held leadership positions in organizations for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities and championed gay interests nationally and internationally. He served as executive director of the World Congress of Gay and Lesbian Jewish Organizations from 1987 to 1993. 

In 1991, he was part of a group of three Washington activists that pressed the State Department to further investigate and include anti-gay incidents and homophobic violence in its annual report to Congress on global human rights practices. 

The 1990 human rights report included a single gay-specific citation — on Denmark’s legalization of gay marriage. This motivated the activists to meet with the report’s director to show evidence of numerous, violent anti-gay incidents left out of the report. 

Michael Petrelis, one of the activists, said the director was receptive, and the reports were expanded in following years. Today, the reports include a section specifically on acts of violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity. 

“He worked to make the world a better place for gay people beyond our borders,” said Petrelis, a former representative of the international AIDS advocacy group ACT UP. 

Mr. Brick was also involved in a number of Jewish organizations and was past president of the Washington LGBT Jewish congregation Bet Mishpachah.

No comments: