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Gay rights activist Marvin Liebman dies at 73

April 2, 1997

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Marvin Liebman, a gay rights activist who for many years hid his homosexuality behind his work with conservative political action groups, has died of heart disease. He was 73.

Liebman was a founder of organizations that included Young Americans for Freedom and the American Conservative Union. He worked on Ronald Reagan’s 1980 presidential campaign and followed him to Washington a year later to become a public relations official at the National Endowment for the Arts. Liebman later worked as public affairs director for the Federal Trade Commission.

In 1990, he revealed his sexual orientation in a publicized letter to a close friend, William F. Buckley, the editor-in-chief of the National Review. He later explained that he could no longer tolerate what he saw as an increasing sense of homophobia in conservative speeches and said he felt ``like a Jew in Germany in 1934 who had chosen to remain silent, hoping to be able to stay invisible as he watched the beginnings of the Holocaust.″

Liebman severed ties with all political parties in a 1995 column in the Advocate, a national gay magazine.

Liebman was born in New York and during World War II served in Army Air Forces in the United States, Africa and Italy. He left the Army in 1944 with a general discharge for being homosexual and was denied veteran benefits.

He died Monday at George Washington University Hospital. He is survived by a sister, Eleanor Lidofsky of New York.