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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 1, 2018 - Volume 46 Issue 22
Lesbian activist Connie Kurtz dies at 83
Section One
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Lesbian activist Connie Kurtz dies at 83

She was the creator of the LGBT Elder Americans Act

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Lesbian activist Connie Kurtz died on May 27. She was 83.

Kurtz is survived by Ruth Berman, her 'wife, her love, her spouse, her co-conspirator,' as the Windy City Times described her.

Berman and Kurtz, known affectionately to all who knew them as 'Ruthie and Connie,' devoted decades to activism on behalf of LGBT rights. They were the subject of an award-winning documentary in 2002 entitled Ruthie and Connie: Every Room in the House.

Berman and Kurtz are perhaps best known for their work on the LGBT Elder Americans Act, first introduced in 2015. The proposed legislation amends the federal Older Americans Act to define LGBT elders as a vulnerable population, authorizing the government to collect data on LGBT seniors and include them in federal senior programs.

The couple won rights for all New York City employees in 1994 after successfully suing the New York City Board of Education for domestic partner benefits.

They also created a number of LGBT rights organizations, including PFLAG branches in New York and Florida, and NOW's Lesbian Rights Task Force.

Described by the Miami Herald as America's 'best-known senior lesbian couple,' Kurtz and Berman received the SAGE Pioneer Award in 2016.

'Connie and her soulmate Ruth have been iconic leaders of our community for decades, which is why the federal legislation SAGE has introduced in Congress on behalf of LGBT elders is named after them,' said SAGE CEO Michael Adams.

'Words can't explain how sad we are that Connie has passed. We send our love and condolences to Ruth. And we celebrate and honor Connie's fierce and passionate legacy, which has made the world a better place for so many of us.'

Kurtz was born July 19, 1936, in Brooklyn. Later she married a man, and in 1970 moved with her husband and two children to Israel, where she lived for four years.

When she returned to the United States, she reconnected with her longtime friend Ruth Berman. They fell in love, divorced their respective husbands, and became a couple. They married in New York on July 26, 2011, two days after the state legalized same-sex marriage.

'Connie and I have been through it all, and she has remained my fulfilled love,' said Berman.

Meredith Ockman, board member of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, and longtime friend of the couple, said, 'Aside from the fact that they are pioneers, the fact is that this is a classic love story that transcended the prejudices and idiosyncrasies of their own time to be able to move us forward - something no one else could do.

'Every success we have had in the community rests on the shoulders of these women. They have affected everyone in life, whether they knew it or not.'

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IN MEMORIAM
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Lesbian activist Connie Kurtz dies at 83
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