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Marvin Liebman (born in New York City in 1923, died in Washington, DC in 1997), conservative activist and fundraiser, and gay rights advocate.
Marvin Liebman was one of the pioneers of direct-mail fundraising. His firm Marvin Liebman Associates, Inc. (1957-1968) provided organizational, fundraising and public relations expertise to the anti-communist and conservative movements in the U.S. and abroad. Its extensive list of clients included: the Committee of One Million, Aid Refugee Chinese Intellectuals, the American Emergency Committee for Tibetan Refugees, the American-Asian Educational Exchange, the American African Affairs Association, and the American Committee for Aid to Datanga Freedom Fighters. In addition, Liebman was an early supporter and co-founder of Young Americans for Freedom and the American Conservative Union.
From 1969 to 1975, Liebman was Managing Director of Sedgemoor Productions in London. During this period, he produced or co-produced nine West End productions, an equal number of touring or out-of-town productions, two television films, and three feature films.
In 1975, Liebman returned to New York City to organize Marvin Liebman Inc, a firm with the same mission as his earlier Marvin Liebman Associates. Among the notable clients were: the Friends of Free China, the Friends of Jim Buckley, the Committee of Single Taxpayers, the American-Chilean Council, the Ad Hoc Citizens Legal Defense Fund for the FBI, Firing Line, and Covenant House.
He enjoyed a long-time friendship with William F. Buckley, Jr. and his family. Liebman viewed Buckley as an inspiring mentor. Despite being born into the Jewish faith, Liebman had, under Buckley's guidance, converted to Roman Catholicism. Upon the occasion of his baptism, Buckley had served as Liebman's godfather, and Buckley's sister Priscilla served as his godmother.
With the Ronald Reagan presidential victory in 1980, Liebman went to Washington, DC. He was Consultant to the Office of Policy and Planning for Action from June through October 1981, Consultant to the Office of Public Affairs for the U.S. Department of Education from October 1981 to February 1982, and Director of the Office of Public Affairs and Director of Special Projects for the National Endowment of the Arts from February 1982 to July 1987. He later served as Director of Special Projects and Acting Director for the Office of Public Affairs at the National Endowment for the Arts.
In July 1990, he shed a lifetime of closeted living after writing a coming-out letter to William F. Buckley, Jr., who was then editor-in-chief of the National Review. "I am almost 67 years old," he told Buckley. "For more than half my lifetime I have been engaged in, and indeed helped to organize and maintain, the conservative and anti-communist cause...the Conservative Party of New York...the Goldwater and Reagan campaigns...All the time I labored in the conservative vineyard I was gay." Liebman's personal letter to Buckley was followed up by an interview printed in The Advocate where he expressed his disgust at the increasing influence of the Religious Right within the Republican Party as the Cold War came to an end. He believed that homophobia was becoming the new basis for organizing conservative groups in the U.S., now that anti-communist sentiments were becoming less relevant.
His autobiography, Coming Out Conservative, was published in 1992. In the book, he said that within the Republican Party he'd begun to "feel like a Jew in Germany in 1934 who had chosen to remain silent, hoping to be able to stay invisible as he watched the beginning of the Holocaust." Over the next five years he became an outspoken advocate of gay and lesbian rights in the U.S., writing numerous articles and traveling the country to speak at various meetings and rallies.
Although he initially labeled himself a moderate Republican and worked to support gay-friendly conservative groups, including Log Cabin Republicans, he eventually concluded that he could no longer self-identify as a fund raiser for or supporter of any conservative group because of the increasingly anti-gay rhetoric of the political right. Liebman also later renounced his ties to Catholicism. In the final years of his life, he chose to describe himself as an "independent".
He died of heart failure on March 31, 1997.
Further reading Edit
- Liebman, Marvin. Coming Out Conservative: An Autobiography. Chronicle Books (1992), 272 pages, ISBN 0-8118-0073-3 (hardcover). Liebman's autobiography.
- Liebman, Marvin. Independently Speaking (1995) An article appearing The Advocate magazine where Liebman rejected the label "conservative."
- Liebman, Marvin. Independently Speaking: A Room of My Own (1996)
- Liebman, Marvin. Independently Speaking: Driven By Stereotype (1996)
- Liebman, Marvin. Independently Speaking: Big Tent for Bigotry (1996)
- Liebman, Marvin. Independently Speaking: The "Soul Savers" (1996)
- Liebman, Marvin Breaking Out of Gay Gridlock (1993) The Washington Blade.
- Rusher, William A. The Rise of the Right. New York: National Review Books (1993), 261 pages, ISBN 0-9627841-2-5 (paper). A semi-autobiographical history of American political conservatism from 1953 until 1981, updated to 1993 in the second edition.
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