Longtime gay activist Howard Wallace died Wednesday in San Francisco after a long fight with Alzheimer’s disease. He was 76.
In the 1970s Wallace worked to find common cause between queer activists and labor groups: In 1974, he united gays in Colorado with the local Teamsters Union in a boycott of Coors Brewing Company. At the time, the Teamsters were in a bitter dispute with the beermaker over unfair business practices. Since one of those practices included forcing employees take a lie-detector test that asked if they were homosexuals, Wallace was able to get GBTs to join the boycott. He also founded the AFL-CIO’s LGBT group, Pride at Work.
Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, who formed Bay Area Gay Liberation (BAGL) with Wallace in the late 70s, credited him with building bridges: “He’s the one who brought Harvey Milk into the Coors boycott,” recalls Ammiano. “And he was never afraid to call out labor leaders when they were being homophobic.”
Wallace’s work was grounbreaking in its time, and is still essential today as we work to widen the community of people who believe in the freedom to marry, and other inalienable rights, for all Americans.