Legendary LGBTQ+ lawyer, writer, and activist Urvashi Vaid died over the weekend at her home in New York City, following a battle with cancer. She was 63.
Vaid had dedicated her life to advancing multiple social causes, including women’s and LGBTQ+ rights, immigration justice, and racial equality. Over the course of her long career, she worked with and co-founded numerous social justice organizations, including LPAC, a political action committee dedicated to supporting progressive lesbian political candidates.
“We are devastated at the loss of one of the most influential progressive activists of our time,” said Kierra Johnson, current Executive Director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, in a statement to the media. “Urvashi Vaid was a leader, a warrior, and a force to be reckoned with. She was also a beloved colleague, friend, partner, and someone we all looked up to – a brilliant, outspoken, and deeply committed activist who wanted full justice and equality for all people.”
A graduate of Vassar College and Northeastern University School of Law, Vaid got her start in advocacy with the American Civil Liberties Union, working as a staff attorney with the National Prisons Project. She went on to work with the Task Force, first as Media Director and later as Executive Director from 1989 to 1992.
During her time as Executive Director with the Task Force, she garnered national attention in 1990 when she unfurled a sign reading “Talk is Cheap: AIDS funding is not,” at a speech given by then President H.W. Bush, in response to his administration’s handling of the HIV/AIDS crisis.
After leaving the Task Force, she published her first book, “Virtual Equality: The Mainstreaming of Gay and Lesbian Liberation” in 1995. It would win the Stonewall Book Award in 1996, and would be followed by two more books: “Irresistible Revolution: Confronting Race, Class, and the Assumptions of LGBT Politics” (2012) and “Creating Change: Public Policy, Sexuality, and Civil Rights” (2000), an anthology co-edited with John D’Emilio and William Turner.
She went on to serve as a deputy director with the Ford Foundation from 2001 to 2005, and the Executive Director for the charitable organization, the Arcus Foundation, from 2005 to 2010. She founded LPAC in 2012 and later the Vaid Group, a strategic consulting organization that works to advance social justice, equity, and inclusion.
In addition to co-founding numerous other organizations, she served as a Senior Fellow and Director of Columbia Law School’s Engaging Tradition Project. She was also a leader in developing the National LGBTQ Women’s Community Survey.
“Her leadership, vision, and writing helped shape not only the Task Force’s values and work, but our entire queer movement and the larger progressive movement,” said Johnson in her statement. “We will strive every day to live up to her ideals and model the courage she demonstrated every day as an activist and a person. She will be deeply missed. I miss her already.”
Vaid was aunt to the performance artist and activist Alok Vaid-Menon and partner to comedian Kate Clinton. She is survived by both.
GO Magazine is absolutely devastated by this news and will carry Vaid in our hearts and our mission forever.