Barrett L. Brick, Past GLAA President, Dies
This time last year, Barrett L. Brick was being honored by Immigration Equality with the group’s Global Vision Award as a ’’consistent voice in speaking out on behalf of LGBT immigrant families.’’ From the former Soviet Union, to Argentina, to the State Department, Brick was a consistent voice, indeed.
That voice, however, was silenced Sunday, Sept. 22, when Brick, 59, died of cancer, his husband Antonio Ruffini at his side. It had been a long-term illness that Brick often mastered, still making appearances and otherwise taking part in Washington’s LGBT community, which he did so much to build. Brick’s interest in global LGBT issues, after all, was only one interest of the man who had a great enthusiasm not only for social justice, but for science fiction, soccer, the stars and his Jewish faith. And the Immigration Equality honor was hardly isolated, with Brick recognized as a Rainbow History Project ’’Community Pioneer’’ and by the nonpartisan Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, D.C. (GLAA), with its 2000 Distinguished Service Award, among other plaudits.
’’He was really multidimensional,’’ says Ruffini, a South African, whom Brick met at the 1999 World Science Fiction Convention in Melbourne, Australia. Until Brick’s illness began to dictate the couple’s plans, there was hope of the two settling into retirement in Johannesburg, where Brick would often visit. ’’Coming to South Africa was getting away from D.C., a break from the politics. We’d go and see local soccer matches. He had his little telescope that he used to bring over.’’
With that telescope, in Ruffini’s garden, Brick enjoyed new celestial vistas of the Southern Hemisphere. The two also explored the country together and Brick, past president of D.C.’s Bet Mishpachah congregation for LGBT Jews and past executive director of the World Congress of Gay and Lesbian Jewish Organizations, found more intimate ways to express his faith.
’’It’s all fairly Orthodox,’’ Ruffini, also Jewish, says of South Africa’s Jewish community, noting there is no equivalent of Bet Mishpachah in Johannesburg, but that the two marked the High Holy Days together, making new traditions. ’’I think Barrett enjoyed that, the different experience.’’
Still, so much of Brick’s life, with much of his career spent working as an attorney with the Federal Communications Commission, was focused on getting things done. His activism surely occupied as much time as his other interests, as evidenced by his three years as GLAA president, for starters.
’’Barrett stepped forward and did things,’’ says current GLAA President Richard J. Rosendall, a regular opinion writer for Metro Weekly and longtime friend of Brick’s. ’’He transformed belief and advocacy into direct action, approaching people and getting the ball moving. Barrett focused on the issues and would work with whomever he had common ground. He was always building bridges. GLAA is very significantly one of his legacies.’’
Rosendall shared some thoughts he penned shortly after Brick’s death, writing, ’’Barrett’s contributions were many and varied. He was an early voice for inclusion of the faith community in LGBT movement strategizing - decades before that was a key part of our strategy for marriage equality in D.C. As a science-fiction fan, he helped organize a Gaylaxicon convention. As a soccer fan, he helped organize a gay football world cup. He often led services at Congregation Bet Mishpachah, and worked to build bridges between gay Jews and Muslims.