White House gay campaigner honoured by Democrats
An HIV+ man who worked as a White House aide to President Bill Clinton and spoke out against government indifference to AIDS has been honoured at a ceremony at the US Capitol.
Bob Hattoy died last month aged 56 from complications brought on by AIDS.
He made a memorable speech to the Democratic National Convention in 1992, in which he told America that he did not want to die.
Mr Hattoy had just learnt that he had AIDS, and he castigated then-President George Bush senior for doing nothing about the disease.
“We are part of the American family. And, Mr. President, your family has AIDS, and we are dying, and you are doing nothing about it.
“I don’t want to live in an America where the president sees me as an enemy. I can face dying because of a disease, but not because of politics,” he said.
“Bob was a public face of equality,” Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi said at Wednesday evening’s memorial service in Washington.
“Serving as a gay man with AIDS at the leadership table at the highest levels of politics and government; helping shape a public health response to this national tragedy.”
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When President Clinton took office he appointed Hattoy to the White House personnel department, and later appointed him to the Presidential Commission on HIV/AIDS.
He served as chairman of the commission’s research committee. He went on to hold senior administrative positions in California.
“Bob was an agitator in the best sense of the word,” said Richard Socarides, a special assistant to Clinton on gay and lesbian policies, told AP.
At the time of his death, the chairman of the Democratic party, Howard Dean, spoke warmly of Mr Hattoy’s contribution to public understanding of HIV and AIDS.
“This weekend, America lost a true champion for justice. Aside from being a fierce advocate on causes ranging from LGBT rights and HIV issues, to civil liberties and the environment, Bob Hattoy was a wonderfully charming man with a tremendous sense of humour.
“Through Bob’s life and service to our country, we are all reminded of the need to do more to encourage greater participation of all Americans, including gays and lesbians, in our political process.”