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Born February 2, 1942, Gary van Ooteghem moved to Houston in 1975 to serve as Comptroller of the Treasury and Harris County Assistant Treasurer. Inspired by Leonard Matlovich, a U.S. soldier resisting a discharge from the military resulting from his admitted homosexuality, Gary informed his boss that he intended to appear before the County Commissioners Court at their August 1, 1975 meeting and propose they adopt a regulation protecting the civil rights of homosexuals.

His boss insisted that he sign a letter acknowledging awareness that he was not to participate in political activities during business hours. He refused to sign and was consequently dismissed from his job. He filed against the county for job discrimination and after many years eventually won his suit in 1986.

Reaction from Van Ooteghem was one of wanting his job back, not the money. He told TWT NEWS/Houston that he would give the money to charity since it was a victory for the community. "I did not win the reinstatement I had sought and so I really did not win my particular battle. However, the community did get a 'win' situation out of all of this in that Harris County has been effectively held accountable in a high court of law for the illegal act of firing a person simply because he was gay."

The publicity surrounding Ooteghem's activism in 1975 caught the attention of a group of LGBT Houstonians as they were initially founding the Houston Gay Political Caucus. At their invitation, Gary became the caucus' first president in February of 1976. He was also known for his role in the organization of the Anita Bryant march, founding the Montrose Activity Center, was at the first meeting of the Gay Rights National Lobby (Human Rights Campaign), published "Upfront" magazine for three years and took part in founding Executive and Professional Association of Houston (EPAH). He died in 2000 at the age of 57 during surgery.

Van Ooteghem quote: "Leonard Matlovich was my role model and I hope
I can be someone else's." (
Source: TWT March 28 - April 3, 1986)

Van Ooteghem Obituary

More info on the Caucus:
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