Another Gay Pioneer Lost

Activists Harry Hay, left, and John Burnside, at their San Francisco home in 2002

Hard on the heels of lesbian activist Del Martin‘s recent passing comes the death of another GLBT hero: John Burnside, inventor, social-justice activist, and longtime partner of Harry Hay, who is credited as a founder of the US gay-liberation movement and died six years ago.

From the Advocate:

[I]t is for his relationship with Hay that gays and lesbians will best remember Burnside. Hay had started the Mattachine Society, a pioneering gay rights organization in Los Angeles, in the 1950s. The couple was together for 39 years.

Burnside and Hay were a highly visible activist couple in Los Angeles throughout the ’60s. Together they formed the Southern California Council on Religion and the Homophile in 1965. A year later they took part in one of the country’s first gay rights demonstrations — a 15-car motorcade through downtown Los Angeles protesting the barring of gay men from serving in the military.

“They were totally committed to peace-and-justice issues on a wide spectrum of social concerns, including Native American rights, womens and labor issues, fair employment and housing — they were just good social activists,” Mark Thompson, a well-known writer on gay history and longtime friend of Burnside, told the LA Times.

Read it, and say thanks to Burnside (and to Martin and Hay and countless others now gone) for working toward making the US a fairer place. It’s up to us now to finish the job:

Gay Rights Activist, Teleidoscope Inventor John Burnside Dead at 91

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