The LGBT and broader civil rights community lost both a friend and a movement icon with the passing of former CDP LGBT Caucus Chair Jean Harris on Saturday, June 25, 2011.
Harris spent decades on the front lines of Democratic and LGBT politics. A 2001 article in The Nation rightfully described Harris as "one of the savviest gay organizers in the country" and appropriately credited her leadership of Basic Rights Oregon as the reason that Oregon was the only state to withstand the tide of anti-gay referenda sweeping the U.S. in 2000.
Harris served as Deputy Mayor of San Francisco, Executive Director of Basic Rights Oregon, and founder of California Alliance for Pride and Equality. In these positions, and many others ranging from campaign strategizing and grassroots organizing to voter identification and registration, Harris did much more than simply "occupy" political and social space -- she maximized it to promote a progressive agenda, especially for LGBT rights.
We join with the many other groups and individuals mourning the loss of this fierce champion of LGBT rights. We offer our condolences to Jean’s family and friends and extend our heartfelt sympathies especially to her partner—our friend and CDP LGBT Caucus officer, Denise Penn.