Skip to content

Woodhull Freedom Foundation mourns death of one of its founders, Jeffrey Montgomery, a leader, activist, a mentor and sexual freedom movement hero.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — July 19, 2016 — Washington, DC

The Woodhull Freedom Foundation mourns the death of Jeffrey Montgomery, a leader, activist, sexual freedom hero, and founder to Woodhull.  He died Monday evening, July 18, 2016.

“I am heartbroken at Jeff’s death.  I know many words will doubtless be written about Jeff, but none can convey the depth of loss – personal loss and loss to our movements – felt at Jeff’s death.  Jeff was a brilliant strategist, a remarkable teacher, a powerful leader, and, above all, my friend. For all the ferocity of his refusal to let others suffer harm, Jeff was a gentle soul. He cared deeply for those he served for so long, speaking out for human rights for almost three decades through his advocacy against violence, homelessness, HIV, and the recognition of the diversity of family, sex and sexuality.

Every word spoken for freedom, every statement demanding human rights – the right to love as we wish and be who we are – will forever summon Jeff to our minds and hearts.  Our hearts go out to all the members of his family, and that includes the hundreds and thousands of lives made better because Jeff lived and because Jeff cared enough to create the change he wanted to see. ” — Ricci Levy, President and CEO of the Woodhull Freedom Foundation.


About Jeffrey Montgomery

Hear about Jeff in his own words here:

Jeffrey Montgomery (born 1953 in Detroit, Michigan), was an American lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activist who used brilliant strategies, fabulous humor, and infinite patience in helping to move the world in which he lived to a better place for everyone.

Montgomery used to describe himself as a “mind your own business” kind of gay guy, one who wrote a check to a “gay” organization once a year and lived his life of privilege unconcerned about others.  A member of the Detroit Montgomery family, Jeff was raised in mansions living a life of luxury.

Untitled 2

Until Jeff’s boyfriend, Michael, was fatally shot outside a gay bar in Detroit and police did nothing about the shooting, considering it just another “gay homicide”.

The refusal to investigate, the lack of concern on the part of law enforcement led Jeff, in 1991 to help found the Detroit-based Triangle Foundation, named after the pink triangle that gay men were forced to wear in Nazi concentration camps.

“Using the pink triangle as our logo was a way to liberate it from its Holocaust past,” Montgomery recalled. “We were finally going to be doing something to help people who had suffered from the same kinds of violence. And, unlike what had happened in Michael’s case, we were going to hold the police accountable to do their job.”

Montgomery was the co-chair of the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), for which he was also a national spokesperson and was a member of the Steering Committee of the Michigan Alliance Against Hate Crime.

Montgomery was one of the founding board members of the Woodhull Freedom Foundation (also known as the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance) and continued to work with Woodhull in various capacities until right before his death.


Left to right, Jeffrey Montgomery (founding board member of Woodhull), Matthew Foreman and Frank Kameny at a Woodhull Freedom Foundation event on 9/18/2004 in Washington, DC.

He was an inaugural member of the WikiQueer Global Advisory Board and served as Strategic Counsel to the wiki’s parent organization, The Aequalitas Project.

Some “Jeffisms”:

When dealing with the press the most important thing to remember is that you have the right to remain silent, because everything you say can and will be used against you.

Never repeat the words of your enemy. When you do, their words are heard twice and yours only once.

I always return the bible to the front desk when I stay in a hotel. I’m not welcome in their house of worship and they’re certainly not welcome in mine.

In a debate on “gay” marriage, the opponent said “Next thing you’ll be marrying horses!” Jeff responded, “Well, at least I’d be in a stable relationship!”

Our call to people of goodwill and justice, and especially to all gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender people, and those who support and love us —our allies in the fight for liberty and justice for all— is to take action.”



Jeffrey Montgomery attends The NAMES Project’s AIDS Quilt Memorial Display Candlelight Vigil at the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday Night, 10 October 1992.

Just a few of the facts about Jeffrey Montgomery.

  • In 1993, theDetroit City Council made Montgomery a recipient of the first of three “Spirit of Detroit” awards and a City Council Testimonial Resolution for being “a strong leader in a difficult position for those who have been ignored in their fight for civil rights. ..”
  • In 1994 he received the first “Unsung Hero” award from theDetroit Human Rights Commission, and the Political Action Award from the lesbian and gay community of Michigan. In addition that year, Hardee’s Restaurants and WKBD-TV also named him a “Hometown Hero”.
  • In 1997 Montgomery received a Golden Apple Award from the Roeper School, as a role model for students and for reflecting the Roeper philosophy of “diversity and respect…and that everyone has the right to the possibilities of their own identity.”The Oakland County branch of the ACLU honored Montgomery for “exemplary achievement and courage in the arena of human rights.”
  • TheMichigan Legislature has twice commended Montgomery with Special Tributes: in 1997, recognizing “his efforts in the struggle for gay and lesbian rights,” and in 2000, citing his “relentless” advocacy for an end to bias crimes and assaults on the glbt community from the radical right.
  • In August 1999, Montgomery was named one of the “Best and Brightest” national LGBT activists byThe Advocate
  • The Human Rights Campaign, in 2000, recognized him with an Equality Award for Community Advocacy.
  • In May 2003,Michigan Governor Jennifer M. Granholm honored Jeffrey Montgomery’s work with a special tribute, calling him a “hero and living legend.” The Governor also noted that “he is among the most visible and accomplished advocates for safety and equality of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in Michigan history.”
  • In May 2003, Montgomery was named, along with twelve other prominent leaders, a “Michiganian of the Year” by theDetroit News for contributions to the state and community and as an individual who makes a difference.
  • In September, 2012, theWoodhull Freedom Foundation honored Jeffrey with its Vicki Sexual Freedom Award.



Media Contact

Ricci Levy
President & CEO
[email protected]

Jeffrey Montgomery
Back To Top