Before there were same-sex marriage and domestic partnerships, even before the rainbow flag became a symbol of gay pride, Don Moreland was...
Before there were same-sex marriage and domestic partnerships, even before the rainbow flag became a symbol of gay pride, Don Moreland was fighting for the rights of gay and lesbian people.
From simple recognition, through the AIDS epidemic to such modern-day concerns as elder care, Mr. Moreland’s activism spanned nearly four decades. He was a tireless champion for a community that at times had little or no voice.
“Don was never a person satisfied with the status quo,” said Seattle City Councilman Tom Rasmussen, a longtime friend and gay-rights ally.
“He thought all of us in public office should do more, could do better. He was impatient … persistent. He always wanted to keep things moving.”
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Mr. Moreland died early Saturday from health complications. He was 75.
Throughout the gay-rights community and beyond, people recall his kind spirit and eagerness to bridge gaps.
His younger brother, Robert Moreland, of Kent, remembers the studious kid debating politics with their father.
Mr. Moreland received a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Washington in 1958 and attended law school there for two years.
In the 1950s and 1960s, he served in the Navy Reserve.
He spent 17 years in financial positions with companies in Southern California before moving to Seattle, where he worked two decades for Skyway Luggage before retiring.
Robert Moreland said he always knew his brother was gay. And when he came out to the family “it was never an issue. It became his passion, of course.”
Mr. Moreland’s unyielding commitment and activism on behalf of gays and lesbians stretched from the mid-1970s until his death last week.
George Bakan, publisher of Seattle Gay News, recalls that when Seattle gay-rights leader Harvey Muggy was dying of AIDs in 1991 and none of his friends in the gay community knew quite what to do, Mr. Moreland organized a party to “say hello” to Harvey. “It was a tremendous human thing to do,” Bakan said. “What a class act.”
Mr. Moreland’s partner, Tad Ichikawa, said the two men, who began dating in 2007, complemented each other.
“I’m more comfortable in a small group of people. He was more outgoing.”
As part of Mature Friends, a local social group for gays over 40 that Mr. Moreland helped found, the partners gathered once a week with friends to play bridge. They also enjoyed traveling and Mr. Moreland held season tickets to the symphony, Ichikawa said.
“We had the most wonderful times together,” he said.
In 1994 Mr. Moreland unsuccessfully ran for the 36th Legislative District seat. Bill Dubay, who did field work on Mr. Moreland’s campaign, remembers he wanted to win with integrity.
“There was to be no dirty politicking, no name-calling,” Dubay recalls. “He always wanted to stick to the issues.”
In more recent years, Mr. Moreland was involved in issues around aging. He served as chairman of the Washington State Council On Aging and was a member of the Seattle-King County Advisory Council on Aging and Disability Services.
Rasmussen said Mr. Moreland wanted to bridge the gap between gay-rights’ organizations in Seattle and those nationally. In the mid-1980s, he served on the board of the Human Rights Campaign, a national organization focused on gay rights.
In 1985, he led a delegation that included Rasmussen and the state’s first openly gay lawmaker, Cal Anderson, to the first lesbian and gay conference of gay elected and appointed officials.
The event in West Hollywood drew fewer than two dozen people, including U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, who was keynote speaker but not yet out of the closet, Rasmussen recalls. On the flight back to Seattle, he said, they decided to create Washington’s first gay and lesbian political-action committee, “The Privacy Fund.”
“Don never sought the limelight, never hesitated to act,” Rasmussen said. “If you asked him for money, he might clutch his heart and gasp, but then would reach into his pocket and give you $50.”
Besides his brother and partner, Mr. Moreland is survived by brother Kenneth, of Renton. A memorial service is planned for sometime in the spring.
Lornet Turnbull: 206-464-2420 or email@example.com.