1997 February 12

Thomas Stoddard, Pioneering Gay Rights Lawyer, Dies


Thomas Stoddard, pioneering gay and lesbian rights attorney, died on this day. Stoddard has been Executive Director of the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund from 1986 to 1992. He was the author of a New York City ordinance prohibiting discrimination against homosexuals in employment, housing, and public accommodations, which the City Council passed in 1986. In April 1993, he and other lesbian and gay rights activists met with President Bill Clinton in the Oval Office to discuss the then-current ban on homosexuals serving in the military. It was reportedly the first-ever meeting of lesbian and gay rights activists in the Oval Office. (But it was not the first meeting in the White House, which occurred on March 26, 1977, under President Jimmy Carter, who was at Camp David at the time.)

In 1993, Stoddard married his partner, Walter Rieman, in a ceremony that, under the law of the time, was not recognized as legal.

The first lesbian and gay rights movement in the world originated in Berlin, Germany, in the 1860s. This included the invention of the word “homosexuality.” Read Robert Beachy, Gay Berlin: Birthplace of a Modern Identity (2014).

Learn more about Lambda Legal’s work today: http://www.lambdalegal.org/

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