She was the first openly gay woman to speak to a major party’s national convention, asking Democrats in 1972 to include an anti-discrimination plank in their platform.
“Today we are coming out of our cabinets and on the conference floor.”
That address was discovered by few outside the Miami Beach Convention Center, delivered just after 5 a.m. on July 12, along with the party platform plank that she and other gay and lesbian delegates were encouraging — a proposal to reevaluate anti-discrimination statutes to safeguard gay and lesbian Americans — did not pass.
But it was still a watershed day for lesbian and gay rights. In taking the dais, Ms. Davis, who died on April 28 at 80, stood since the first openly lesbian delegate into a national political convention in the USA. Along with Jim Foster, a homosexual delegate from San Francisco, she talked to a increasingly progressive-leaning party that would nominate George S. McGovern, the liberal senator in South Dakota, for president.
In 2012, after the Democratic Party had included in its platform, for the first time, speech about marriage equality, Ms. Davis reflected on her pioneering efforts decades earlier in an interview with NPR. “I’ve been working in gay rights for 40 years,” she explained,”so that I came back to this advice after a lengthy journey, and that I thought, Isn’t that fine?”
After a stroke in January, Ms. Davis received over $30,000 in support for home healthcare through an internet fund-raiser. “Thanks for a lifetime of important work,” one donor wrote.
That work largely began in the tiny hours of a July morning in Miami Beach in 1972, when she spoke into a convention-hall mic so that gay and lesbian Americans might finally be heard.
“I made this speech,” she advised Playboy,”because I knew there were gay people out there at 4 o’clock in the morning, sitting in the front of the television sets, waiting to watch among their own men and women stand up.”