Yale acquires LGBTQ archives

A leading gay rights organization has chosen Yale as the new home for its historical documents.

The Family Equality Council, an advocacy group for LGBTQ parents and their children, announced earlier this month that it will donate its collection of archival materials to Yale University Library’s Manuscripts & Archives Department. Composed of documents ranging from meeting minutes to financial reports that chronicle the organization’s 30-year history, the donation represents one of the largest transfers of materials between a gay rights organization and Yale, according to history and American Studies Professor George Chauncey ’77 GRD ’89. The papers, which will arrive in early 2014, will contribute to Yale’s expanding collection of primary source materials about LGBTQ history.

“The growth in the number of LGBT-headed families and the legal recognition of same-sex relations is one of the momentous cultural transformations of our time,” said Chauncey, who serves as co-director of the Yale Research Initiative on the History of Sexualities and was Yale’s point person for the arrangement with the organization. “Family Equality Council is still working on these issues and we will acquire more of their papers over time.”

Manuscripts & Archives first contacted the Family Equality Council in spring 2012, hoping to obtain papers on the historical prolificacy of LGBT families. Eventually, this more limited proposition evolved into something greater — a full transfer of all of the Family Equality Council’s documents. Jamie Marks ’83, a board member of the Family Equality Council, had raised the possibility of the donation, according to Chauncey.

Gabriel Blau, executive director of the Family Equality Council, emphasized the papers’ comprehensive nature. He cited the institution’s examples ranging from detailed accounts of the process of passing anti-discrimination laws in Missouri, as well as to records of the organization’s more high-profile involvement in the Supreme Court’s overruling of the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8.

According to Director of Manuscripts & Archives Christine Weideman, the partnership between Yale and the Family Equality Council is far from over.

“When we work with an organization, we establish a relationship with them so that we not only document their past work, but continue to work them in the future to document their ongoing work,” she said in Tuesday email.

Joseph Fischel, professor of Women’s Gender & Sexuality Studies, said the new partnership has great potential. Fischel estimated that four of the 10 seniors in the WGSS Department’s Senior Colloquium are currently writing senior essays directly engaging with LGBTQ issues, though he said he imagined more students at Yale are doing so indirectly.

Students interviewed also expressed their enthusiasm for the acquisition.

“That sounds like it could be a really interesting resource going forward,” said Julia Calagiovanni ’15, an English major whose senior essay will involve LGBTQ issues. Calagiovanni also cited the significance of the archive’s subject, adding that “it could help researchers understand the movement toward acceptance of these families.”

Taylor Nicolas ’15, a WGSS major, said that while her area of study does not relate to the new documents, she thinks the archives will enhance the WGSS core curriculum and supplement primary material about LGBTQ history.

One of the first results of Yale’s partnership with the Family Equality Council is already visible on the Family Equality Council’s website: an interactive timeline narrating the history of the LGBTQ family movement.

Yale has previously acquired many documents related to gay history. In 2010, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders — the legal rights organization that won same-sex couples the right to get married in several states, including Connecticut — donated its records to Manuscripts and Archives.

The Family Equality Council was founded in 1979 as the Gay Father’s Coalition and is located in Boston.

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