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November 11, 2012

HOBS honors Charles Francis

Charles_Francis_at Kameny_Memorial
(Charles Francis at congressional memorial gathering for Frank Kameny, Nov. 15, 2011. AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

On Saturday, November 10, GLAA President Miguel Tuason and I (Rick Rosendall) attended the annual dinner of the charity Helping Our Brothers and Sisters (HOBS) at Rajaji Restaurant in Woodley Park. HOBS this year honored Charles Francis with its Community Service Award. I was asked to make the presentation. Here is what I said:

My friend Charles does not seek the limelight. In a town of insatiable egos, he quietly stands for what is right and takes action to advance it. In so doing he has helped preserve our past and shape our future.

Charles is from Dallas. He was an Eagle Scout and a UVA graduate, and is a public affairs consultant.

In 2001 in Cody, Wyoming, Charles founded the Republican Unity Coalition, dedicated to making homosexuality a non-issue in the Republican Party. He recruited such prominent persons as Gerald Ford and Alan Simpson. The Coalition filed an amicus brief in Lawrence v Texas. The GOP’s subsequent lurch to the extreme right left him disillusioned, but his message of simple respect for diversity still points the way back to a solid footing for his former party.

In 2006, Charles created the Kameny Papers Project to preserve the historic papers and picket signs of our late friend and colleague, gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny. Charles won Frank’s cooperation, hired an appraiser, recruited donors, and conducted research. The donors purchased the materials from Frank and gave them to the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institution. This rescue of history (which Bob Witeck, Marvin Carter, and I were honored to help) could not have been achieved without Charles’s diplomacy, skill, generosity, and persistence.

The ongoing task of preserving our past could have no better champion than this tough and graceful visionary.

It is my privilege to present the HOBS Community Service Award to Charles Francis.

In accepting the award, Charles praised HOBS for its work, and Executive Director Marvin Carter in particular for providing much-needed assistance to Kameny in his final years, ranging from home repairs to taxi vouchers to a cell phone to groceries. Charles also spoke about the erasure of gay history from mainstream accounts. He held up three biographies of President Eisenhower published during the past year, and noted that none of them mentions Executive Order 10450, which in 1953 required the firing of homosexuals from government jobs and led to the destruction of many lives. So archival and publishing efforts within the LGBT community continue to be vital to ensuring that our contributions are not lost to history.

I join Charles in thanking HOBS for its work. As its mission statement says, it is "an all-volunteer micro-charity that helps marginalized GLBT individuals in the Washington D.C. area meet short-term needs. HOBS's focus is on those who do not fit the criteria for help from other organizations or agencies." To donate to HOBS via PayPal, please follow this link.

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