Allen Roskoff is a legendary gay rights activist who has been a leader in the LGBT and social justice movements for over four decades. Roskoff achieved many early victories for the LGBT movement, including co-authoring the nation’s first gay rights bill.
Roskoff first became involved in the movement in 1970 when he joined the Gay Activist Alliance and became the chair of the Municipal Government Committee. Along with Jim Owles, he later co-founded the nation's first gay Democratic club. Roskoff has worked on hundreds of political campaigns going back to the congressional races of Bella Abzug. Later campaigns would include heading Lesbians and Gays for David Dinkins, Mario Cuomo, and in 1984 served as as New York State LGBT Co-Chair for Jesse Jackson for President.
Early in the 1970s, Roskoff disguised as himself as a psychiatrist and entered the Taxi and Limousine Commission with a couch demanding that the straight commissioner receive a psychiatric exam. Till that point, homosexual cab drivers had to produce a letter from a psychiatrist verifying that they were sane enough to drive a taxi. As a result of that demonstration the regulation was changed and no such letter was needed.
To protest regulations barring same sex couples from dancing together in an entity with a cabaret license, Roskoff went to the Rainbow Room with a male partner risking arrest. A few days later the Consumer Affairs Department changed regulations and gays were allowed to dance together. The New York Post ran an article entitled "Gays Win A Waltz."
In 1972 Roskoff helped organize a zap inside Radio City Music Hall for a ceremony put together by Mayor John Lindsay. The protest demanded an Executive Order barring discrimination within city government. Roskoff handcuffed himself to a chair in the theatre's balcony while demanding that Mayor Lindsay issue an Executive Order and showering the orchestra with leaflets. A few days after the protest, Lindsay issued an executive order.
Roskoff publicly questioned aspiring 1984 Presidential candidate Senator John Glenn about his refusal to support Federal Gay Rights legislation. His stunning public performance drew national attention to Glenn's anti-gay bigotry, resulting in the resignation of his New York State campaign coordinator, then New York State Senate Minority Leader Manfred Ohrenstein. Glenn's campaign shortly thereafter came to an end.
Roskoff was the first openly gay person appointed to a community board and also the first to serve in the offices of an elected official. In 1974, he joined the executive staff of the New York City Comptroller Harrison J. Goldin. Subsequently, Roskoff would serve in the administrations of Comptroller Harrison J. Goldin, Governor Mario Cuomo, Mayor David Dinkins, New York City Public Advocate Mark Green, and New York State Senators Martin Connor, David Paterson and Tom Duane.
Roskoff has been featured, quoted and written about in major national and local publications including Look, Newsweek, Time, The New York Times, New York Post, The Daily News and The Advocate. He has written for gay publications such as The Native, QW, Outweek and The New York Blade on a regular basis, often providing front page coverage.
Roskoff has received awards from Parent and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City, Gay and Lesbian Independent Democrats, New York City Human Rights Commission, the Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights and the Village Independent Democrats. He served as Grand Marshall of the Queens Pride Parade, was guest of honor at both Yale and Princeton's Gay Pride Ceremonies and received a proclamation from the City of West Hollywood.
In recent years, he has proudly worked for the mayoral campaigns of Mark Green, Anthony Weiner and Bill Thompson in their bids to defeat Michael Bloomberg. Roskoff believes it a sad evolution that some members of the LGBT community abandoned progressive principals and its ties to the progressive wing of Democratic Party by supporting Michael Bloomberg's campaigns for mayor.
Roskoff is most proud to have established the formation of the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club bringing together dozens of prominent members of the LGBT community, straight allies, party and elected officials, and people from the performing arts. He believes that this organization has and will continue to elect progressive Democrats for local, city, state and national office.
Roskoff was partners with Jim Owles in the early 1970's when they shared their lives together and remained best friends. Jim Owles died of AIDS in 1993 while Roskoff held him as he quietly died in St. Vincent’s Hospital.