Gay rights activist who advocated hard line against discrimination
September 24, 2011
Arthur Evans: ARTHUR EVANS, who helped form and lead the movement in the United States that coalesced after gay people and their supporters protested against a 1969 police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a New York gay bar, has died from a heart attack at his home in San Francisco. He was 68.
Evans was not at the Stonewall disturbances, but they fuelled in him a militant fervour and inspired him to join the Gay Liberation Front, an organisation started during the wave of gay assertiveness that followed. For Evans and other militants, however, the group was not assertive enough. They worried that it was diluting its effectiveness by taking stands on issues beyond gay rights – opposing the Vietnam War and racial discrimination, for example.
So in December 1969 they split off to found the Gay Activists Alliance, choosing a name to suggest more aggressive tactics.
Based in New York, the alliance became a model for gay rights organisations across the US, pushing in New York for legislation to ban discrimination against gay men and lesbians in employment, housing and other areas. Evans wrote its statement of purpose and much of its constitution. which began, "We as liberated homosexual activists demand the freedom for expression of our dignity and value as human beings."
To attract attention the alliance staged what its members called "zaps", confrontations with people or institutions that they believed discriminated against gay people. Among other incidents, they confronted mayor John V Lindsay of New York and went to television studios to protest about shows perceived as anti-gay, demanded gay marriage rights at the city's marriage licence bureau, and demonstrated at the taxi commission against a regulation, since abolished, requiring gay people to get a psychiatrist's approval before they could be allowed to drive a taxi.
Evans was born in York, Pennsylvania. His father was a factory worker who had dropped out of elementary school, and his mother ran a beauty shop in the front room of the family house.
He attended Brown University on a scholarship and there joined a group of self-styled "militant atheists", but left after three years and headed for New York's Greenwich Village, having read in Life magazine that it welcomed gay people. In New York, he transferred to City College and switched from political science to philosophy.
Graduating in 1967, he entered the doctoral programme in philosophy at Columbia, where he studied ancient Greek philosophy and participated in anti-war protests.
However, becoming disenchanted with academia, he withdrew from Columbia in 1972 and moved to rural Washington state, where he and a companion, calling themselves the Weird Sisters Partnership, tended a small patch of forest land and lived in a tent.
When the Washington experiment failed, Evans and his companion moved to San Francisco. There, they opened a Volkswagen repair shop they named the Buggery.
After settling in San Francisco, he wrote Witchcraft and the Gay Counterculture and Critique of Patriarchal Reason (1997).
Growing up, Evans had hid his sexual orientation, though he himself was aware of it at 10, he said. By November 1970, when he was scheduled to appear on The Dick Cavett Show with other gay leaders, he had still not told his parents that he was gay. But, by his account, he did tell them he was going to be on national television.
Thrilled, they told friends and neighbours to tune in. Evans later said he regretted his handling of the matter.
Arthur Evans, born October 12th, 1942; died September 11th, 2011