Kurt Barrie

  • Tuesday December 30, 2014
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Kurt Barrie

April 17, 1966 " December 15, 2014

Kurt Barrie, a significant queer Democratic Party activist, died December 15, 2014 of AIDS-related causes at 48. Barrie was born in Auburn, California in 1966, and escaped an abusive childhood at 15, traveling around the country and ending up in San Francisco. Though he never went to college, Barrie was a brilliant political strategist who came in to his own in developing grassroots political campaigns, often with armies of local volunteers. A charismatic, warm, and bubbly presence, Barrie was also famously handsome, quick-witted and a passionate fighter against injustice of all stripes. Once in San Francisco, Barrie quickly became involved in local politics, both as an aide to San Francisco Supervisor Harry Britt (the man appointed to fill Harvey Milk's seat following his assassination) and as architect of one of the most important precursors to queer marriage, domestic partnership legislation. He was chief strategist for the Yes on K campaign in 1990, the first successful domestic partnership law in San Francisco and one of the first in the country, and successfully defended that legislation against repeal a year later. Barrie went on to serve in San Francisco Mayor Frank Jordan's office as special assistant and liaison to the LGBTQ community. He helped push through one of the nation's first needle exchange programs and was active in the Lavender Sweep that saw Carole Migden and Roberta Achtenberg elected to the Board of Supervisors, Donna Hitchens to Superior Court judge, and Tom Ammiano to the San Francisco school board, the most significant string of queer political victories in San Francisco since the initial election of Milk.

A committed community activist, Barrie moved to Palm Springs, and there founded the Palm Springs Democratic Club, helping elect Ron Oden as the city's first gay African-American mayor in 2003. He led several other activist endeavors to victory in Palm Springs, including the Save our Mountains campaign. Barrie is survived by his beloved sister, Tonie "Lizzard" Barrie, and legions of friends, including Clay Baker and his ex, Jonathan D. Katz. He died in Palm Springs.

The Domestic Partnership Collection is being established at the GLBT Historical Society. If people want to donate ephemera or information about Prop S, Prop K, anything related to the early days of domestic partnership, or the Lavender Sweep, write to Kurt@queerculturalcenter.org. The collection will kick off with a conference exploring the early history of domestic partnership legislation in San Francisco.