Tom Gallagher, Diplomat Who Became a Gay Activist, Dies at 77


He was sent there, and he even met Emperor Haile Selassie.

“Had he known of my orientation, the emperor might have had me executed, which was considered the appropriate response to homosexuality in Ethiopia at the time,” Mr. Gallagher noted in the Monmouth interview.

In 1965 he joined the State Department and was assigned to Saudi Arabia. In 1966 he married Carolyn Worrell, and for a time it seemed as if he had found a niche in the heterosexual world. As Ms. Shine’s Slate article, written in timeline fashion, put it, “Tom loves his wife, and he loves his job, and his secrets — well, he doesn’t think about them very much these days.”

After a posting in Nigeria, Mr. Gallagher was given a series of assignments in the United States. One was at the personnel office; decades later, when he received the State Department’s Tragen Award, William J. Burns, then deputy secretary, cited his support of equality for female employees during this period.

But his marriage ended in 1972, and in the broader world, the gay-rights movement was ramping up. Mr. Gallagher was becoming more open about his sexuality, including doing counseling at the Gay Community Services Center in Los Angeles during an assignment in that city.

In 1975 the Gay Activist Alliance held a conference in Washington called “Gays and the Federal Government.” He volunteered to speak at it.

“I think it was sort of a ‘to hell with it’ decision,” Ms. Shine said by email. “He knew he had to get his security clearance renewed soon (in 1975 he’d been there a decade), and anyone they called in Los Angeles could tell them that he had worked at the center.”

During the panel discussion at the conference, when someone asked him what the State Department thought of his being gay, he responded, “I guess this is my coming-out party,” the Slate article said.


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