February 7, 2011 at 8:13 am EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Jeff Coudriet dies at 48

Jeff Coudriet, a local gay rights leader who worked as a congressional staff member before serving in various positions with the D.C. government, died Saturday in Washington following a year-long struggle with lung cancer. He was 48.

Coudriet is credited with playing a key role in efforts to repeal D.C.’s sodomy law and to pass the city’s first domestic partners law during his tenure as president of the Gay & Lesbian Activists Alliance from 1992 to 1995.

Following his stint as GLAA president, Coudriet served as president of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest LGBT political group.

Coudriet was a native of Endicott, N.Y. He graduated from New York’s Cornell University before joining the Washington staff of Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.) from 1993 to 1999. He later served on the staff of D.C. Council member Sharon Ambrose (D-Ward 6), where, among other things, he helped Ambrose draft sweeping legislation to overhaul the city’s liquor law.

In 1996, the city’s Democratic Party leaders appointed Coudriet to represent the District on the Electoral College in connection with that year’s presidential election.

He joined the staff of D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) in 2001 and served there until 2004, when he left to take a position with the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration. Coudriet returned to Evans’ staff in 2007 to become clerk of the Council’s Committee on Finance and Revenue, which Evans chairs.

He remained on Evans’ staff until the time of his death.

“It is impossible to put into words the contributions Jeff made to our city and its residents,” Evans said.  “My staff and I share the grief and extend our condolences to Jeff’s family and friends, and deeply mourn his passing.”

D.C. Council Chair Kwame Brown (D-At-Large) said he was deeply sadened upon learning of Coudriet’s passing.

“He was a true public servant who dedicated his career to improving the lives of District residents,” Brown said. “Jeff will be sorely missed, and his absence from the halls of the Wilson Building will be felt by many.”

News of Coudriet’s death stunned many of the city’s LGBT and civil rights activists, who worked closely with him on LGBT and other city-related issues for more than 20 years.

“Jeff’s insider knowledge of the District finances was invaluable to Shaw on many occasions, when funding needed to be identified for important projects,” said Alex Padro, a gay activist and Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner representing the city’s Shaw neighborhood.

In messages posted on a memorial site that Coudriet’s brother set up on Coudriet’s Facebook page, many of his friends and those who worked with him on various issues said he was known as a helpful and considerate person with a wry sense of humor. Others said he was always respectful when expressing disagreement with them on government and political issues.

“While he led the gay Democrats, I led the gay Republicans in town,” said Carl Schmid, former president of the D.C. Log Cabin Republicans group.

“Party differences never got in the way of a true gentleman because we were always fighting for the same goal,” Schmid said. “I wish so many others were like him.  He will be greatly missed.”

Bob Dardano, a Stein Club member who worked with Coudriet on LGBT issues in the 1990s, said of Coudriet, “He was a passionate advocate of his beliefs and did it all with professionalism and a sense of humor.”

Coudriet, a long-time smoker, was diagnosed last spring about a year after he’d quit smoking. He was candid about his treatments and progress on his Facebook page and, for a time, was doing well.

A memorial service fhas been scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 16 at 11 a.m. at Foundry United Methodist Church (1500 16th St., N.W.) in Washington, D.C.  All are welcome. A funeral service will also be held on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church, 701 West Main St., in Endicott, New York.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

  • Jeff was one of the good guys. He will be so missed!

  • Jeff was smart, funny, wise, and will be greatly missed. Small correction: the domestic partnership law passed under Jeff’s predecessor as GLAA President, Mindy Daniels. I took over from Jeff when he became President of Stein. He was a hard act to follow.

  • Jeff was a sincere human being and model citizen. It was a pleasure to have known him. I will miss his presence in Washington DC.

    Charles Gaither

  • I first met Jeff when I worked for Jubilee Housing. He was very fine young man and he and his skills will be missed in DC. I was rather shocked to get this news. I used to see him on the street. As a cancer survivor I wish we spent as much finding a cure as we do on aircraft carriers. I suspect that Jeff would agree.

  • Jeff was my trusted right hand for many years. His dedication and sense of humor was unmatched. His last fight against this disease was ferocious and his spirit never wavered. I will miss Jeff’s friendship the rest of my life. I love you, Jeff.

  • i am so sad. i first met jeff in early 1993 when our offices were next to each other in the longworth building. he worked for congressman hinchey and i worked for the house district committee. when i moved on from dc politics we would run into each other often in and around the logan circle neighborhood. i can’t believe i won’t be seeing him again. coincidentally, jeff’s last job as clerk of the d.c. council’s finance and revenue committee was a job i held when the late john wilson chaired that committee, just prior to his becoming council chair. jeff was so smart, so funny and so dedicated and hard-working. wow. will he be missed.

  • This is why people need to be valued when they are alive. Way too many good people have been abused by the irresponsible and ungrateful public. A wake up call is needed, DC has turned into a vicious place.

  • I was shocked and saddened as I just learned of Jeff’s passing during the Council hearing on Tuesday morning. He was kind, funny, and well-respected as a civil servant here in DC and will be missed.

  • Slight update on Jeff’s BIO…out of Cornell he worked for Rep. Matt McHugh until his retirementment when he then joined the Hinchey team.

  • I was shattered to hear this terrible news–Jeff and I went back to working on the Hill where we both worked for members of the NY delegation, to living on the Hill, where we would run into each other on the street, to doing politics on the same issues and causes, to being my go-to guy in sharon’s office and at abra–and on and on and on. kind, thoughtful, helpful, and very funny. there will be an absence where jeff got things done and helped the rest of us along the way.

  • I guess this is an object lesson in the perils of smoking. Quit now, and maybe stay alive.

    • That was rather cold and insensitive

    • Jim, that is horrifying. You know, Jeff never liked you, and yet he always played nice. I never could understand how, or why. You are insensitive, borish, and so self-absorbed it boggles the mind.

    • Could you say something nice considering how many years you worked with him you petty little man. Remember he did quit smoking more than a year beforehand. For you to use this forum to express your views on smoking when Jeff was just lost makes me so glad you are not my council member

  • Jeff was a great and smart and dedicated and funny guy who didn’t suffer fools easily.

    In that spirit I add my tribute to his life and memory, so as to ensure that the fool’s comment directly above is not left to stand as the last word today.

  • Tom, you’re right. The tiniest councilmember, as Jeff always referred to him, must mean ABJECT lesson. Let his ugly commentary rest in obscurity, as surely he, himself, will.

  • Hundreds of Jeff’s friends filled the Foundry Methodist Church on Wednesday for a celebration of his life. Mayor Vince Gray spoke, as did Councilmembers Jack Evans and David Catania. Jeff’s brother spoke, representing the family, and Peter Rosenstein spoke for the gay activist community. Wayne Jennings’ singing of Ave Maria was breathtaking. The huge crowd was as diverse and wonderful as Jeff’s circle of friends and colleagues. It gave testimony as to what a gift Jeff’s life was to us, and how much he will be missed.

  • Jeff will be missed. It was always great to run into him at functions or just on the street. Always with that smile, sense of humor and insight on some District matter. A genuine good guy!

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