Activist David Mixner with President Clinton

David Mixner, left, introduces President Clinton for a speech to the Access Now for Gay and Lesbian Equality dinner Oct. 2, 1999, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Khue Bui)

David Mixner, a “founding father” of the LGBTQ+ Victory Fund, a leading LGBTQ activist in the 1980s and ’90s and an advisor to then-candidate Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign has died. He was 77.

According to an article posted today (Monday, March 11) by The Advocate, Mixner first got involved in politics when he was a teenager in New Jersey, when he volunteered with John F. Kennedy’s 1960 presidential campaign. He worked in the Black civil rights movement in the Deep South, helping register Black voters and getting rid of the poll tax. He also demonstrated against the Vietnam War and was beaten so severely by police while protesting outside the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968 that he walked with a cane for most of his life.

Mixner came out as a gay man in the 1970s, The Advocate notes, in response to anti-LGBTQ campaigns by Anita Bryant and others, and he helped defeat an effort in California — The Briggs Initiative — that would have banned LGBTQ teachers in that state.

In the 1980s, Mixner became involved in AIDS activism, and when Bill Clinton ran for president in 1992, Mixner was his top advisor on gay issues, The Advocate reports. But when Clinton faced opposition to ending the ban on openly lesbian and gay people serving in the military and eventually compromised with the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, Mixner spoke out against the compromise, effectively breaking away for Clinton and his allies. Nearly two decades later, Mixner lobbied President Obama to end the ban, and in 2010 Obama signed legislation passed by Congress to do just that.

He was also active in the push for marriage equality and helped organize the 2009 National Equality March in Washington, D.C.

Annise Parker, president and CEO of the LGBTQ+ Victory Institute, an email about his death called Mixner “a courageous, resilient and unyielding force for social change at a time when our community faced widespread discrimination and an HIV/AIDS crisis ignored by the political class in Washington, D.C.”

Parker recalled that Mixner was one of 65 people arrested at an AIDS protest outside the Reagan White House in 1987, “where police wore latex gloves because of the stigma and misinformation around HIV/AIDS.”

Parker wrote, “A few years and many protests later, David and a group of fellow activists came together to discuss solutions to the government’s unresponsiveness to our cause — including the HIV/AIDS crisis. They determined it was because LGBTQ+ people were not represented among those elected leaders — and that we needed to be in the halls of power to make true change.

“From that moment, he made transforming our government his life’s work.”

Mixner and other activists launched the LGBTQ+ Victory Fund in 1991 to pursue that goal, she added.

“David gave his time, energy and money to building a new political reality in America — having the foresight and dedication to see it through even in the most difficult of times,” Parker said. “His legacy is the thousands of out LGBTQ+ people who now serve in elected and appointed positions all across the nation — and the tens of thousands more to come.

“David embodied the spirit of activism and resistance in everything he did — and always with humor and a smile. He has changed not just America, but the world.”

— Tammye Nash