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Texas LGBT & Women's Activist Bettie Naylor Has Passed Away

by: Karl-Thomas Musselman

Thu Apr 19, 2012 at 04:15 PM CDT

Earlier today Bettie Naylor, an activist in the LGBT and Women's Rights movements, passed away. For decades, Naylor was a mentor, leader, trailblazer, and advocate for equality and tolerance. Her actions and leadership have had a profound impact not only in Texas, but across the country as a result of her many years of activism. She will be missed.

A number of statements are included below.

Equality Texas

In the 1980's, Naylor personally helped organize all the gay bars in Texas - a group that until then had no representation in the Legislature. Bettie fought to ensure the bars were not punished or fined solely because of their gay affiliation, and she successfully lobbied on their behalf for a decade.

Bettie was a founder of our organization, having lobbied on behalf of the Texas Gay Task Force, which would later become the Lesbian/Gay Rights Lobby of Texas (LGRL), and which is now known as Equality Texas. Bettie was also a driving force behind the formation of the Human Rights Campaign.

A founding member of the Texas and National Women's Political Caucus, Bettie breathed new life into the women's movement, and gained powerful allies along the way. In the early 1990's, one of those allies was Texas Governor Ann Richards.

"She said to me once, 'You're an uppity woman, aren't you?' and I said, 'Why, yes, I am,'" Naylor recounted fondly.  Later, when Naylor was honored by the Human Rights Campaign, Governor Richards commented in her classic tongue-in-cheek manner, "Bettie Naylor is older than dirt. And I have taught her everything she knows."

Bettie Naylor was an iconic champion of equality in the Lone Star State. As her partner, Libby Sykora, said in 2008, "Like others, I just admire her so much as an individual, as a person and as a woman. Truly, she is probably the most amazing woman I have ever met."

We extend our condolences to Bettie's partner, Libby, and to her entire family. Arrangements are pending.

Annie's List

For over 40 years Bettie has been an icon in the movements for women, gay rights and reproductive choice. She was a founding member of the National Women's Political Caucus, a founding member of the Human Rights Campaign, and a long-time advocate and lobbyist for women and LGBT rights.

She was also a committed member of the Annie's List Austin Steering Committee, and we are so glad to have known and worked with her since our founding in 2003. In fact, next month at our Annual Central Texas Annie's List Luncheon, we planned on honoring Bettie as our "2012 Woman Warrior" for her lifelong fight for the values we all share.

We are saddened that we won't be able to give her the award in person but we will move forward in celebrating her life with her family. Bettie was a legendary leader and an inspiration to everyone she touched. She will be missed.

Human Rights Campaign

"Bettie Naylor was a force to be reckoned with, and played a central role in bettering the lives of LGBT people at both the national level and in Texas. As a founding board member of the Human Rights Campaign, and a leader in starting our Austin Steering Committee, Bettie was a tireless advocate and never stopped working to ensure that members of our community received the rights, dignity, and respect that all people deserve. Bettie was driven by a desire to create a future where kids never had to be ashamed of who they were, but could instead live openly and without fear. Today, we live in a country where many loving, committed same-sex couples can marry and start families, where many students can thrive in their communities without fear of violence, and where a growing number of businesses are recognizing the importance of protecting their LGBT employees - these are all part of Bettie's lasting legacy."

Former Rep. Glen Maxey

I'm very saddened to hear that Bettie Naylor, the icon of the GLBT community and my mentor, has passed away last night. She was a founder the National Women's Political Caucus and the first gay leader to work for our community in the Texas Capitol for GLBT rights. And a damn near great human being.

Bettie, please tell God when you see her to fix some of this shit back here on earth, ok?


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