Virginia Governor Youngkin Appoints Bert Ellis–Foe of Frank Kameny and Mattachine–to UVA Board of Visitors

The University of Virginia’s student newspaper “The Cavalier Daily” (CD) published archival features from 1975, when Board of Visitors appointee Bert Ellis “canned” an event featuring gay rights pioneer (and founder of Mattachine of Washington, D.C.) Frank Kameny. The CD also published the Gay Student Union President Andy Humm’s letter to the Editor (UVA alumnus, 1975) about Ellis’ role in suppressing LGBTQ+ voices.

Photograph by Ava MacBlane, The Cavalier Daily

Ellis denied Gay Student Union co-sponsorship request as student, archives show

August 28th, 2022: By Eva Surovell and Ava MacBlane

Board of Visitors appointee Bert Ellis denied a request by the Gay Student Union for the University Union to co-sponsor an event headlined by pioneering gay rights activist Frank Kameny in 1975, coverage from The Cavalier Daily’s archives show.

The decision came just a month after Ellis and the Union had also been at the center of controversy for hosting a debate featuring William Shockley, a prominent eugenics supporter. Though the Black Student Alliance and Student Council told Ellis and the Union to cancel the debate — titled “The Correlation Between Race and Intelligence” — the event took place in February 1975 during the first week of Black History Month.

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LETTER: Free speech hypocrite Bert Ellis canceled speaker in 1975

Bert Ellis did not want anybody to hear from Frank Kameny — that’s his hypocrisy

August 29th, 2022: By Andy Humm

I went to U.Va. with Bert Ellis and am, of course, revolted that he is the kind of person Governor Glenn Youngkin wants to help bring down hundreds of years of liberal education at the University. While Ellis’ idea of free speech is promoting discredited racists such as William Shockley, he has a history of suppressing LGBTQ+ voices going back to our time at the University. 

When I was president of the Gay Student Union at the University in 1975, we co-sponsored with the University Union the great Franklin Kameny, a pioneering gay activist since the late 1950s, as a speaker. But when Ellis, then a tri-chairman of the University Union, got wind of the collaboration, he pulled the University Union out. “When I saw it [the Kameny request], I immediately canned it,” Ellis said. 

Charles Francis, an archive activist, University alumni and president of the new Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C. found that quote from Ellis at that time in The Cavalier Daily along with this — “I did not want the University Union associated with the GSU. In view of the student population here, it is not the type of activity the University Union should sponsor. It’s [homosexuality] not an issue viewed highly in the University, and it would not help the University Union’s position and prestige.” The GSU assumed sole sponsorship of the event and Kameny filled the hall. Francis wrote about all this in the Washington Blade here.

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