The Washington Post

Barrett L. Brick dies; former D.C. lawyer championed LGBT issues worldwide

Barrett L. Brick, a government lawyer and gay rights advocate who successfully campaigned to include anti-homosexual violence as a staple of the State Department’s annual human rights report, died Sept. 22 at the ManorCare nursing home in Bethesda. He was 59.

The cause was cancer, said his husband, Antonio Ruffini.

Mr. Brick, a Washington resident, spent 30 years as a lawyer at the Federal Communications Commission before retiring in 2010. He also held leadership positions in organizations for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities and championed gay interests nationally and internationally.

He served as executive director of the World Congress of Gay and Lesbian Jewish Organizations from 1987 to 1993. In 1991, he was part of a group of three Washington activists that pressed the State Department to further investigate and include anti-gay incidents and homophobic violence in its annual report to Congress on global human rights practices.

The 1990 human rights report included a single gay-specific citation — on Denmark’s legalization of gay marriage. This motivated the activists to meet with the report’s director to show evidence of numerous, violent anti-gay incidents left out of the report.

Barrett L. Brick (Family Photo)

Michael Petrelis, one of the activists, said the director was receptive, and the reports were expanded in following years. Today, the reports include a section specifically on acts of violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

“He worked to make the world a better place for gay people beyond our borders,” said Petrelis, a former representative of the international AIDS advocacy group ACT UP.

Mr. Brick was also involved in a number of Jewish organizations and was past president of the Washington LGBT Jewish congregation Bet Mishpachah.

According to the Rainbow History Project, an organization that documents Washington’s LGBT history, he was an early and important voice in the lobbying effort in the early 1980s to include a commemoration to gay Holocaust victims in the newly established U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

“Never again will the world deny we were killed for whom we loved,” Mr. Brick told The Washington Post in 1993, after the museum’s dedication.

He often gave sermons and “was an early and strong voice for inclusion of the faith community in LGBT organizing and strategizing,” said Richard Rosendall, president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington (GLAA).

Barrett Lee Brick was born Jan. 12, 1954, in Middletown, N.Y. He received a bachelor’s degree in 1976 and a law degree in 1979, both from Columbia University.

He was GLAA president from 2006 to 2009 and a past board member of the D.C. chapter of Log Cabin Republicans, an LGBT advocacy group. He was also a past co-chairman of the American Bar Association’s Committee on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.

He spoke out on behalf of immigration equality for LGBT individuals and families and, in 2012, received an award from the LGBT rights organization Immigration Equality.

He was a member of the Screaming Eagles — fans of the D.C. United soccer team — and served on the planning committee for Gaylaxicon, an annual LGBT science-fiction, fantasy and horror convention. He enjoyed astronomy and eclipse chasing. According to his husband, he pursued the hobby for more than 30 years and saw 14 eclipses.

Survivors include his husband of four years, Antonio Ruffini of Johannesburg.

At the dedication of the Holocaust museum, Mr. Brick discussed the importance of recognizing and remembering the gay victims of Nazi persecution.

“For the living and for the dead, for ourselves and for future generations, we and this museum bear witness to the truth of our heritage and our history: of community and survival, of terror and death, of love and resistance,” Mr. Brick said. “We preserve our stories, and we tell them.”

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