Morris Knight




Morris Kight (born November 19, 1919, Comanche County, Texas – died January 19, 2003, Los Angeles, California) was a gay rights pioneer and peace activist, based in Los Angeles. He is considered one of the original founders of the gay and lesbian civil rights movement in the United States. He graduated from Texas Christian University and graduated in 1941 with a degree in personnel administration and public administration. From 1941 until 1958, Kight lived in northern New Mexico, where he and many other gay people were active in Adlai Stevenson’s campaign in the 1952 presidential election. The presence of many gay people in Stevenson's campaign led to the spreading of a rumor that Stevenson was gay. While in New Mexico, Kight married and had two daughters, Carol Kight-Fyfe and Angela Chandler. He only shared that information with his closest friends, apparently believing that would diminish his credibility as a spokesman for gay rights.

Kight's strong beliefs sometimes put him at odds with members of the gay community. In 1977, Kight began what became a national Coors boycott to expose how the Coors Brewing Company used its millions to finance union-busting legislation and anti-gay politicians. Morris infuriated organizers of Outfest the year the festival accepted Coors funding. He organized a demonstration in front of the event, using the opportunity to educate the community about the ways anti-gay corporations try to clean up their public image by funding cash-starved gay organizations and events. Morris persevered and Outfest no longer accepts Coors funding. In 1958, Kight moved to Los Angeles, where he was the founder or co-founder of many gay and lesbian organizations. The first such organization was the Gay Liberation Front in October 1969, the third GLF in the country (after New York and Berkley). The name was used to show solidarity with the Vietnamese National Liberation Front. By the next year, there were over 350 GLF organizations around the country.

He also co-founded Christopher Street West gay pride parade in Los Angeles in 1970, and the Gay Community Center in 1971, (now the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center), the Stonewall Democratic Club in 1975, and many others. Kight remarked that creating the Community Center was the achievement of which he was most proud. One of the first actions by the LA GLF was against a local eatery called "Barney's Beanery". The restaurant, located in West Hollywood, not only had a sign above bar that said “Fagots [sic] Stay Out”, but also printed up matchbook covers with the same saying. Kight, along with Troy Perry and 100 activists protested outside, sending in protesters occasionally to order coffee and take up space at the tables. The protest was initially successful - the owner eventually handed Kight the sign in front of news cameras. But after the media left the owner replaced the sign, where it remained until West Hollywood's first lesbian mayor, Valerie Terrigno, took it down when the city council passed an anti-discrimination ordinance. He served on the County of Los Angeles Human Relations Commission for two decades. He died peacefully at the Carl Bean Hospice in Los Angeles, on January 19, 2003.