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Steve Endean
(August 6, 1948 - August 4, 1993) U.S.A.

Steve Endean

Gay rights activist

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Stephen "Steve" Robert Endean was an early gay rights activist, first in Minnesota, then nationally. He was born in Davenport, Iowa, and came to Minnesota to attend the University of Minnesota from 1968-1972, majoring in political science. The gay rights movement, which arose after homosexuals clashed with the police at the Stonewall gay bar in Greenwich Village in 1969, inspired him at 22 to become open about his homosexuality. Feeling that his declaration precluded a career as a politician, he decided to use his skills to promote gay rights through the political process.

In 1971, Endean founded the Minnesota Committee for Gay Rights (later Gay Rights Legislative Committee), and became the first gay and lesbian rights lobbyist in Minnesota a year later. Along with the Minnesota Committee for Gay Rights and Democratic legislators, Endean opposed trans-inclusion and public accommodations in a statewide gay rights bill, giving as their reason the belief that the bill would not pass with such inclusion.

Steve's first major project was in the early 1970's, campaigning for a Minnesota bill to bar discrimination against homosexuals. He lobbied during the day on a $300 monthly salary paid by supporters of the bill, supplementing that salary by working nights as a coat checker at a gay bar. He recalled that one enraged legislator yelled a slur and threw a book at his head.

In the 1970s, he served as co-chairman of the Board of Directors of the National Gay Task Force (later NGLTF). In 1978, he became the director of the Gay Rights National Lobby. In 1980, he started the Human Rights Campaign Fund (later just HRC), and served as its first Executive Director.

In 1985, Endean was diagnosed with AIDS. After this, increasing health problems led to semi-retirement.

In 1991, he created the National Endorsement Campaign, an effort to get straight political leaders and media figures to endorse LGBT rights. Also in 1991, he published his memoir, Into the Mainstream . In 1993, he was present (in a wheelchair) at the Minnesota State Capitol when the Legislature passed the Minnesota Human Rights Act, which banned LGBT discrimination in housing, employment, and education.

After being diagnosed with AIDS, Endean devoted his time to initiating the National Endorsement Campaign which focused on persuading political and media leaders to publicly support gay and lesbian rights. The bill was finally passed in 1993. Although weakened by his illness, he returned to lobby for its enactment. Steve died that same year of AIDS-related complications, at the age of 44.

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Sources: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia & http://www.nytimes.com/ & http://rmc.library.cornell.edu/

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