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In Memoriam
In Memoriam: Bettie Naylor (1928-2012)
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 04/19/12
Last updated on: 04/19/12
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Bettie Naylor

Texas activist Bettie Naylor, a founding member of both the Human Rights Campaign and the National Women's Political Caucus, died in her sleep on April 19, 2012.

Naylor and her wife Libby Sykora spent decades lobbying on behalf of progressive causes, especially women's and glbtq issues.

In the 1970s, Naylor became Texas's first registered gay rights lobbyist. A tiny woman, she became a large presence in the Texas state house, constantly fighting against anti-gay legislation, and often losing the battle, especially after Texas tilted to the right in the 1990s.

Naylor is survived by Sykora and three children and two granddaughters.

Upon learning of Naylor's death, a number of organizations and individuals have issued statements lauding her and her work.

The statement from Equality Texas notes that Naylor was a founder of the organization, as well as of the Texas and National Women's Political Caucus: "Bettie breathed new life into the women's movement, and gained powerful allies along the way. In the early 1990s, one of those allies was Texas Governor Ann Richards. . . . When Naylor was honored by the Human Rights Campaign, Governor Richards commented in her classic tongue-in-cheek manner, 'Bettie Naylor is older than dirt. And I have taught her everything I know.'."

The statement goes on to describe Naylor as "an iconic champion of equality in the Lone Star State."

Former executive director of what was then the Lesbian Gay Rights Lobby of Texas Dianne Hardy-Garcia said, "Bettie Naylor was a fearless and tenacious leader. And she was just damn fun to be around. What I loved about her, and learned from her, was that she was always willing to drink with, pray with and charm Republicans and Democrats alike in the quest for women's equality and LGBT rights. In her mind, all things were possible and she believed everyone could change and become more enlightened. . . ."

Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese issued the following statement: "Bettie Naylor was a force to be reckoned with, and played a central role in bettering the lives of LGBT people at both the national level and in Texas. As a founding board member of the Human Rights Campaign, and a leader in starting our Austin Steering Committee, Bettie was a tireless advocate and never stopped working to ensure that members of our community received the rights, dignity, and respect that all people deserve. Bettie was driven by a desire to create a future where kids never had to be ashamed of who they were, but could instead live openly and without fear. . . . "

Other tributes may be found here and here.

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