Arthur Evans, Haight-Ashbury Patriarch and Gay Rights Pioneer, Dieshttp://www.baycitizen.org/lgbt/story/arthur-evans-haight-ashbury-patriarch/?utm_source=Newsletters&utm_campaign=0304a62f08-September_15_Daily_Newsletter9_14_2011&utm_medium=email
Evans was an early advocate for same-sex marriage and for the city's Sit/Lie ordinance
By: Scott James
Updated Sept. 15, 2011
The gay community and San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury have lost a passionate and articulate voice.
Arthur Evans, one of the earliest pioneers for same-sex marriage in the United States who would later become an outspoken fixture of The Haight, died Sunday. He was 68.
Evans had long battled a heart condition. Last November, with doctors telling him he would die soon, he asked to share some of his memories of The Haight's mostly forgotten gay heyday.
He had lived in an apartment overlooking the intersection of Haight and Ashbury Streets since 1974 and was one of the few survivors of a thriving gay community there that was mostly wiped out by AIDS in the 1980s and early 1990s. Evans wanted The Haight's gay heritage noted before he died, and his insight became the subject of one of my columns.
Evans was also one of the earliest voices to speak out against troublesome groups of young, homeless adults who had encamped in recent years on the sidewalks of Haight Street.
"These are not the flower children," Evans said. "I call them skinheads with long hair."
In 2009, Evans helped start a grassroots campaign about the issue that would eventually evolve into San Francisco's controversial Sit/Lie law, which was approved by voters last year.
Ted Loewenberg, president of the Haight Ashbury Improvement Association, said Evans had a "sharp satirical wit and bulldog determination to right the wrongs around us."
But Sit/Lie was only the final chapter in a lifetime of what Evans saw as quests for justice. In the gay rights movement, he was there from the very beginning.
In the months following the Stonewall protests in New York in June 1969 --the beginning of the modern gay rights movement, Evans co-founded Gay Activists Alliance. On June 4, 1971 he led a protest that stormed the New York City Marriage License Bureau demanding gay marriage rights with a mock engagement party.
Film footage of the protest -- which shows Evans with long hair and a beard shouting, "Gay power!" -- was posted Tuesday on the website FrontiersLA.com, along with details of his role in the founding of the gay rights movement.
In 1975 Evans went on to establish the Faery Circle in San Francisco, a neo-pagan gay group -- a precursor to the Radical Faeries, a counterculture queer spirituality movement that continues to this day.
In his later years, Evans, who typically donned a meticulously pressed blazer, settled into the role of scholar and intellectual, writing books about history and sexuality. It was a frugal existence, one dedicated to research, but he would light up when regaling guests in his tidy home with his memories of the early days of gay liberation, before death arrived and claimed so many.
The experience of losing dozens of friends, so young, to AIDS gave Evans perspective about his own mortality. When told by doctors that he would soon die, Evans scoffed. "I can hear my friends," he said, "that old queen – is she still here?"