Memorial Honors Gay Rights Pioneer Morris Kight

by Matt Johns, February 2, 2003

Los Angeles, California -- Young and old, the powerful and the not so powerful packed West Hollywood's Metropolitan Community Church Saturday to remember one of the pioneers of the gay rights movement.

Morris Kight always had the power to draw a crowd, and the memorial service showed that even in death his magnetism had not diminished.

California Governor Gray Davis and the mayors of West Hollywood and Los Angeles were among the dignitaries.

Davis recalled meeting Kight as a young aide to then governor Jerry Brown.  He told the hundreds who overfilled the church that Kight became a mentor.  "He had an enormous influence on me," Davis said.

In an unprepared and emotional speech Davis said "Morris Kight believed in freedom not just for gays, but for everyone."

The crowd was so large even the isles in the church were filled and two overflow rooms were hastily set up in the lower level.

Kight died last month.  He was 83.

The long-time Los Angeles resident was born November 19, 1919, in Comanche County, Texas. In 1969, he and several others  launched the Gay Liberation Front -- one of the first gay rights groups in America.

In 1971, he co-founded the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Community Services Center, the first and largest such center in the world.

Rarely satisfied with all he had achieved, Kight also created some of the movement's most visible efforts.  He co-created Los Angeles' gay pride march, the Christopher Street West Parade, in 1970.  And, was a founder of California Stonewall Democrats.

"Morris invented a great deal of what we think of as the gay community in Southern California," said activist Miki Jackson. "He had tremendous vision and imagination and great drive to make his visions a reality."

One of his best-known protests was a weeks-long 1970s demonstration outside Barney's Beanery, a West Hollywood restaurant popular with musicians and celebrities that for years had placed the words "No fags allowed" on its matchbooks and in its bar. The offending words were eventually removed.

Last year, after serving twenty years on the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission, Morris retired from public service but continued to speak out on behalf of people in need. Most recently he spent his birthday as a witness before the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors testifying for better AIDS services.

"Morris has started so many organizations, we sometimes joke that he probably invented sex, chocolate, disco music and almost everything else," former West Hollywood Mayor John Heilman once said.

Kight is survived by his partner of 25 years, Roy Zucheran; two daughters, Carol Kight of Claremont and Angela Bonin of Texas; two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Frights of Kight have planted a magnolia tree in his memory in one of his favorite parks the Matthew Shepard Triangle. (Emphasis Added)


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