Oral History with Eric Rosenthal and Jeffrey Menzer


Eric Rosenthal, a doctor, and Jeffrey Menzer, a nurse, recount their life in DC, starting with their political advocacy work with the Gay Rights National Lobby and the Human Rights Campaign Fund (Eric) and the National Council on Women and Girls, and Business Professional Women (Jeffrey). They later got involved with local DC politics through the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club. Through Project CHAMP at Children’s National Hospital, they fostered a child with AIDS. This sparked their professional development in medicine.


Jeffrey Menzer moved to Washington, DC in 1982 after college seeking work in political advocacy. He worked with the National Council on Women and Girls and later with Business Professional Women (BPW) on topics such as Title IX and the Equal Rights Amendment. Eric Rosenthal worked with Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) in Pennsylvania, serving on the national board of ADA for several years. Through his volunteering with the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Democratic Clubs, Eric moved to DC in 1984. Eric worked at the Gay Rights National Lobby (focused on political advocacy and lobbying) and as an early employee of the Human Rights Campaign Fund (later, Human Rights Campaign and focused on political fundraising). He was there when the two organizations merged into HRCF. Eric and Jeffrey met in 1984 while campaigning for Jane Wells-Schooley in Pennsylvania's 15th Congressional District. They spoke about how a major focus in the early 1980s was to pass the Gay and Lesbian Civil Rights Bill (introduced in 1974) but that the HIV/AIDS crisis took precedence. They noted that the crisis opened up political support and visibility for gay rights in specific ways. For example, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) was supportive of the gay community on HIV/AIDS issues but hadn’t been on gay civil rights.

Eric and Jeffrey became involved in the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club and the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance (GLAA). They noted the support Mayor Marion Berry gave to the LGBT community in DC. They both worked on Barry’s 1986 reelection campaign and noted the influence of gay city officials such as Richard Molsby. Jeffrey got a job with DC’s AIDS Program Coordination Office and helped set up DC’s AIDS Drug Assistance Program. Eric and Jeffrey volunteered with Project CHAMP at Children’s National to help children with AIDS, who were stigmatized at the time. They noted the support of people like Tommy Wells who headed the DC Consortium of Child Welfare and led the program to match foster families with children affected by AIDS. They fostered a child named Joshua who later passed. Their experience led Eric to go to medical school (he is now a pediatrician) and Jeffrey to nursing school. Jeffrey ran an 8 year study that looked at ways to support children with HIV/AIDS. One of the outcomes of this study was guardianship legislation in DC that allowed terminally ill parents to designate a guardian for their children. They spoke about the child they adopted in 2007 and ended with their views on the gay rights movement today. Discussion also covered: Right to Privacy Foundation, Whitman-Walker Clinic, Tracks, Lambda Rising bookshop, Tom Chorlton, Vic Basil, Deacon Maccubbin, Rich Llewellyn, Kurt Vorndran, Bill Bogan.


Access Rights

This oral history belongs to the Rainbow History Project


Jerry Wei



Original Format

1 audio file, (02:00:21); 109.6 MB

1 video file (02:00:20); 667.3 MB


“Oral History with Eric Rosenthal and Jeffrey Menzer,” Rainbow History Project Digital Collections, accessed April 19, 2024, https://archives.rainbowhistory.org/items/show/1845.

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