Gay activist who sued NYC for domestic partner benefits dies
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Connie Kurtz, a gay-rights activist who sued New York City for domestic-partner benefits in the 1980s, has died at age 81.
Kurtz died Sunday at her home in West Palm Beach, Florida, her daughter, Eileen Ben Or, said. The cause was liver cancer.
Kurtz met Ruth Berman in the late 1950s when both were married to men. Both had teenage children when they left their marriages and became a couple in the 1970s.
Berman was working as a school guidance counselor at a high school in Brooklyn when the two women were plaintiffs in a 1988 lawsuit seeking domestic-partner benefits from the New York City Board of Education.
The lawsuit prompted the city to offer healthcare coverage to all registered domestic partners in 1994.
Kurtz’s and Berman’s highly public coming out included a 1988 appearance on “The Phil Donahue Show.”
“The coming out of both of us was the key to what we have done for the community,” Berman said at a funeral service for Kurtz on Wednesday, according to The New York Times , “and we had no clue we were doing it for the community.”
Kurtz and Berman were the subject of a 2002 documentary called “Ruthie and Connie: Every Room in the House.”
Their activism also was reflected in the name of legislation introduced in Congress to protect the rights of older LGBT Americans. It is called the Ruthie and Connie LGBT Elder Americans Act.
Kurtz and Berman married in 2011 when same-sex marriage became legal in New York.
In addition to Berman and Ben Or, Kurtz’s survivors include a son, Moishe Kurtz; 14 grandchildren; and numerous great-grandchildren.