Bob Summersgill (2012)

Bob Summersgill arrived in Washington in 1983.

Photo © Patsy Lynch

I am a fan of being able to make change.

Bob Summergill came to Washington, DC in 1983 from his native New Jersey to study at George Washington University, graduating in 1988. He works as a database manager, but his true vocation is activist. This self-described “policy wonk” has improved life in the District for all through his tireless work for civil, legal, and human rights for the LGBT community. Working with organizations and independently, Bob changes things for the better.

In 1989, Bob formed the George Washington University Gay and Lesbian Alumni/ae group, which successfully lobbied to have sexual orientation included in the university’s non-discrimination policy. His membership in the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance (GLAA) led him into exhaustive research into DC’s and the nation’s sodomy laws, and he compiled the Internet’s most comprehensive website on the subject, which had a part in the campaign for the law’s reform and repeal. Efforts culminated in 1993 when the DC Council voted unanimously for reform and in 1995 when the DC criminal code was fully modernized and the sodomy law was completely repealed.

After serving as GLAA’s secretary from 1993-1994, Bob left DC for a four-year sojourn in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he published a gay newspaper. When he returned to DC in 1998, he re-joined GLAA and helped organize DC’s participation in “Equality Begins at Home” events in March 1999. He subsequently served GLAA for one term as vice president, three terms as president (2000-2003), and three terms as treasurer. Under Bob’s leadership, GLAA worked on a wide range of issues, including the implementation of an anti-harassment directive by the DC public schools and prohibitions on bullying and sexual harassment; work with the DC Office of Human Rights and Intersex Society of North America to enhance understanding of the medical, ethical, and legal dimensions of intersexuality; ensuring the confidentiality/anonymity of DC Department of Health AIDS/HIV testing; fighting the discriminatory aspects of “Megan’s Law;” de-felonizing first-time possession of marijuana (in the interest of medical marijuana needs); and preparing candidate and incumbent ratings for DC Council elections and the Agenda, an election-year guide to LGBT issues in DC.

Bob’s advocacy for the expansion of rights for domestic partnerships and improvement of rules for the recognition of domestic partnerships and civil unions in DC was an essential part of his long-term strategy for marriage equality in the District. Bob was the first person to testify before the DC Council when public consideration of the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009 began. Since the Marriage Equality Act became law in 2010, Bob has remained vigilant, testifying in support of the Civil Marriage Dissolution Equality Amendment Act of 2011, since he knows that “equality under the law must extend to every contingency.”

On top of all this, Bob is a long-time member of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, advocates for a smoke-free DC, plants trees as a “lead citizen forester” with Casey Trees, serves as the political chair of the DC Sierra Club, and is the treasurer of his Advisory Neighborhood Commission.