elisa_rolle (elisa_rolle) wrote,

Bill Kraus (June 26, 1947 - January 25, 1986)

William James "Bill" Kraus (June 26, 1947 - January 25, 1986) was an American gay rights and AIDS activist and congressional aide who served as a liaison between the San Francisco gay community and Congress in the 1980s.

He attended Dartmouth for a semester and then Ohio State, where he received both his undergraduate and master's degree in history. He attended Ohio State University in 1968 and went on to become an aide to US Representatives Phillip and Sala Burton.

Upon arriving in Castro Street in San Francisco, he learned the meticulous nature of politics through Harvey Milk, who was the first elected homosexual city supervisor. Bill Kraus would be the president of the Harvey Milk Democratic Club. After Milk's assassination, Kraus would aide Harry Britt to be elected as Milk's successor to city supervisor.

He garnered a job as gay liaison to Congressman Phillip Burton. Together, they worked on legislation and funding to fight "gay cancer", later to be named AIDS. Through the Harvey Milk Democratic Club, Kraus conducted a "safe-sex" campaign, endlessly trying to bring awareness to the gay community of the dangers of unsafe sexual intercourse. Part of their campaign was demanding the closing of San Francisco's gay bathhouses. Kraus was hit back with criticism from the gay community, being called a "sexual Nazi".

AIDS Quilt

After a bitter fight for gay rights, Bill Kraus was diagnosed with AIDS on October 1, 1984. He traveled to Paris to be treated with a drug that at the moment was believed to help AIDS patients boost their immune system called HPA-23, but it proved useless. He was there when actor Rock Hudson also traveled to Paris for the same reason. Kraus died from AIDS on January 25, 1986.

He also appeared in the documentary film The Times of Harvey Milk. He was also a central person in Randy Shilts' book And the Band Played On. In 1993, the book was adapted as an HBO movie, with Sir Ian McKellen playing Kraus.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Kraus
Homophobia led many decision makers to discount AIDS epidemic, partly because they didn't care much about those who were sick, and partly because they believed that as long as they were straight, they themselves would never have to worry about it. The only real heroes were a few scientists inside the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), who lobbied early and often for money to fight the epidemic, and a very small group of congressmen from California and New York, including Philip Burton, Henry Waxman, and Ted Weiss, whose openly gay staff members convinced them to take the epidemic seriously. Bill Kraus, a gay aide to Burton, and Tim Westmoreland, the gay counsel to a Waxman health subcommittee, were particularly important in sounding the alarm. --The Gay Metropolis: The Landmark History of Gay Life in America by Charles Kaiser
Further Readings:

The Politics of Gay Rights (The Chicago Series on Sexuality, History, and Society) by Craig A. Rimmerman, Kenneth D. Wald & Clyde Wilcox
Paperback: 476 pages
Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; 1 edition (July 1, 2000)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0226719995
ISBN-13: 978-0226719993
Amazon: The Politics of Gay Rights (The Chicago Series on Sexuality, History, and Society)

Few issues in American politics inspire such passion as that of civil rights for gays and lesbians. In this group of original essays, scholars and activists writing from a number of different perspectives provide a comprehensive overview of this heated debate. Contributors thoroughly investigate the politics of the gay and lesbian movement, beginning with its political organizations and tactics. The essays also address the strategies and ideology of conservative opposition groups, such as the Christian Right. They focus on key issues for public policy, including gays and lesbians openly serving in the military, anti-discrimination laws, and the ongoing crisis of AIDS. The book ends with chapters that discuss the ways in which the political struggle for gay rights has played out in various arenas—in Congress, in the courts, in state and local governments, and in electoral politics.

Forcefully argued and accessibly written, this collection is an important contribution to the current discussion about civil rights for gays and lesbians.

And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic, 20th-Anniversary Edition by Randy Shilts
Paperback: 656 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; Revised edition (November 27, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0312374631
ISBN-13: 978-0312374631
Amazon: And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic, 20th-Anniversary Edition

Upon it's first publication twenty years ago, And The Band Played on was quickly recognized as a masterpiece of investigatve reporting. An international bestseller, a nominee for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and made into a critically acclaimed movie, Shilts' expose revealed why AIDS was allowed to spread unchecked during the early 80's while the most trusted institutions ignored or denied the threat. One of the few true modern classics, it changed and framed how AIDS was discussed in the following years. Now republished in a special 20th Anniversary edition, And the Band Played On remains one of the essential books of our time.

Creating Change: Sexuality, Public Policy, and Civil Rights (Stonewall Inn Editions) by John D'Emilio, William B. Turner & Urvashi Vaid
Paperback: 544 pages
Publisher: Stonewall Inn Editions; 1st Stonewall Inn Edition, Feb, 2002 edition (April 16, 2002)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0312287127
ISBN-13: 978-0312287122
Amazon: Creating Change: Sexuality, Public Policy, and Civil Rights (Stonewall Inn Editions)

The two dozen essays assembled in Creating Change examine some of the most bitterly contested and controversial public events and public policy battles in American history. These writings, each by a leading activist or scholar, recount how a specific constituency—gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered persons, and their allies—achieved tremendous progress despite seemingly insurmountable barriers. With each of the chapters written by an activist or scholar integral to the specific area of discussion, this is a work of scholarship and a work of passion about the way the American political and cultural landscape became what it is today. It is the story of how social change is made.

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Tags: activist: bill kraus, gay classics

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