Lambda Legal Mourns Passing of Henry van Ameringen, Philanthropist and Early Supporter of LGBTQ Equality

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September 10, 2020

Henry van Ameringen, a philanthropic giant and early supporter of LGBTQ equality, passed away yesterday at the age of 90. His early support, coming at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, was crucial to laying the foundation upon which the LGBTQ advocacy movement was built.

Henry van Amerigen was a thoughtful and indefatigable support of and advocate for full equality civil rights for LGBTQ people and everyone living with HIV. He was justly celebrated and will be long remembered as one of the greatest philanthropists our community, New York City, and our nation has ever seen. Quite simply, our movement would not be where it is today if not for Henry van Ameringen:  there has been no major advance in the fight for justice for LGBTQ people and everyone living with HIV in which his philanthropy did not play a role.  He was also deeply committed to racial justice and was often the difference between an organization led by and/or serving people of color being able to make its payroll and keep its doors open or having to shut down.  He insisted our movement center the most marginalized and never relented in that commitment.

On a more personal note, I first met Henry nearly three decades ago, and consider him to be both a great friend and an invaluable mentor.  Henry treated everyone as his equal and accordingly treated everyone with tremendous respect.  He also respected you enough to challenge you, to provoke you, and to call you out on your BS if he thought it was appropriate to do so.  Henry never held back, and you always knew where you stood with him  -- there was never a ‘hidden agenda’.  He welcomed and appreciated being challenged and provoked in return.  Henry was REAL in a world where artifice too often reigns.  His philanthropy was never driven by ego or a need for attention but rather by a genuine desire to try to improve the world, and all he asked of grantees in return for the hundreds of millions he gave away was that we use his funds wisely and well.  Henry was a one-of-a-kind gem of a man, and our world is smaller today without him in it.