From newyorktimes.com

James W. Owles Is Dead at 46; Was Founder of Gay Rights Group

By David W. Dunlap • August 08, 1993

James W. Owles, the founding president of the Gay Activists Alliance and the first openly gay candidate for political office in New York City, died on Friday at St. Vincent's Hospital in Manhattan. He was 46 and lived in Manhattan.

The cause was AIDS-related toxoplasmosis, said Ethan Geto, a friend.

Until illness forced him to step down this year, Mr. Owles was a special assistant and liaison to the lesbian and gay community for the State Senate minority leader, Manfred Ohrenstein. He had worked for the Senator, a Manhattan Democrat, since the early 1980's.

Mr. Owles was born in Calumet City, Ill. He attended the University of Illinois and then served in the Air Force.

In December 1969, he helped found the Gay Activists Alliance in New York City with Arthur Bell, Morty Manford, Martin Robinson and others. As president of the alliance from 1970 to 1971, Mr. Owles advocated anti-discrimination bills in Albany and New York City.

"We do not ask for any respectability or sympathy from straight people," he declared in a letter to the State Legislature in February 1971. Others' opinions, he said, "are of no interest to us except to the extent that these private bigotries are allowed to become public policy."

In 1971, on the eve of the second annual gay pride march, Mr. Owles said: "It's a lot more difficult to march out of the closet than to march for peace. It can cost you your job or your career." He envisioned a future in which homosexuals would "show straights and themselves that being gay means something more than the baths and the bars," and he said he expected to work for gay rights "till I die."

During demonstrations, known as "zaps," mounted by the alliance, Mr. Owles was arrested many times. In April 1972, at the annual Inner Circle dinner of City Hall reporters at the New York Hilton, Mr. Owles grabbed the microphone onstage to denounce press coverage, and a melee erupted in which he and Mr. Manford were seriously injured. Ran for City Council

In January 1973, Mr. Owles declared his candidacy for the City Council district encompassing Greenwich Village, which he called the nation's "largest gay ghetto." He described himself as the first openly gay candidate for office in New York City.

He challenged the incumbent, Carol Greitzer, as someone who "voted right" but "failed to organize pressure to get things done." In the Democratic primary in June 1973, he received 3,632 votes, to 16,814 votes for Councilwoman Greitzer.

Mr. Owles went on to be a founder of the Gay and Lesbian Independent Democrats in 1974, the first such political club in the city. In 1985, he was one of the seven founding members of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, which monitors the coverage and depiction of lesbians and gay men in the media.

He is survived by three brothers, Kevin and Robert Jr., both of Calumet City, and Michael, of Munster, Ind., and two sisters, Penny Pivourinas of Calumet City and Sharon Homola of Hammond, Ind.

Officers

BOARD OF GOVERNORS

  1. Hon. Catherine Abate
  2. Hon. Eric Adams
  3. Juan Antigua
  4. Stuart Appelbaum
  5. George Arzt
  6. Charles Bayor
  7. Lance Bass
  8. Mark Benoit
  9. Hon. Jonathan Bing
  10. Chris Brady
  11. Christian Campbell
  12. Eduardo Castell
  13. Michael Colosi
  14. Hon. Marty Connor
  15. Debra Cooper
  16. Hon. Jon Cooper
  17. Hon. Laurie Cumbo
  18. Alan Cumming
  19. Wilson Cruz
  20. Jim Davis
  21. Hon. Bill de Blasio
  22. Jon Del Giorno
  23. Kyan Douglas
  24. Hon. Daniel Dromm
  25. James Duff
  26. Hon. Ronnie Eldridge
  27. Hon. Herman Farrell
  28. Hon. Alan Fleishman
  29. Hon. Dan Garodnick
  30. Hon. Michael Gianaris
  31. Ari Gold
  32. Jake Goodman
  33. Hon. Richard Gottfried
  34. Hon. Mark Green
  35. Arthur Greig
  36. Joe Hagelmann
  37. Tony Hoffmann
  38. Hon. Brad Hoylman
  39. Hon. Letitia James
  40. Brian Jenks
  41. Hon. Corey Johnson
  42. Phillip Keane
  43. Paul Kelterborn
  44. Scott Klein
  45. Yetta Kurland
  46. Greg Lambert
  47. Marc Landis
  48. Dodge Landesman
  49. Hon. John Liu
  50. Michael Mallon
  51. Mike C. Manning
  52. Cathy Marino-Thomas
  53. Bridget Marks
  54. Hon. Melissa Mark-Viverito
  55. Julie Menin
  56. Hon. Rosie Mendez
  57. Alex Meskouris
  58. John Cameron Mitchell
  59. Donny Moss
  60. Hon. Paul Newell
  61. Jason Otano
  62. Hon. Chris Owens
  63. Hon. Jose Peralta
  64. Noah Pfefferbilt
  65. Bob Pontarelli
  66. Joe Pressley
  67. Nathan Riley
  68. Hon. Gustavo Rivera
  69. Hon. Helen Rosenthal
  70. Maer Roshan
  71. Dan Roskoff
  72. Toby Russo
  73. James Sansum
  74. Scott Sartiano
  75. Reshma Saujani
  76. Hon. Diane Savino
  77. Hon. Arthur Schwartz
  78. Lynn Schulman
  79. Mark Schulte
  80. Cecile Scott
  81. Rev. Al Sharpton
  82. Hon. Jo Anne Simon
  83. Tom Smith
  84. David Spegal
  85. Anne Strahle
  86. Hon. Scott Stringer
  87. David Suárez
  88. Wayne Sunday
  89. Hon. Bill Thompson
  90. Hon. Matt Titone
  91. Hon. Ritchie Torres
  92. Jesse Vargas
  93. Andrew Velez
  94. Patricia Nell Warren
  95. Wil Weder
  96. Seth Weissman
  97. Benton Whitley
  98. Emma Wolfe
  99. Hon. Keith Wright
  100. Mel Wymore