Longtime LGBT and political activist Douglas Shaps died of colon cancer Oct. 22. He was 53.
While he most recently worked as a financial analyst, Shaps also invested significant energy into a number of local LGBT and HIV/AIDS organizations.
Shaps served as executive director of Outfront Philadelphia from 2000-06.
“He was an exceptional human being with a deep commitment to civil rights,” said Kathy Padilla, also a former director of the agency.
During his tenure at Outfront, Shaps spearheaded successful efforts to amend nondiscrimination ordinances in Philadelphia and New Hope to include gender identity. Padilla said Shaps also successfully developed Outfront’s political-endorsement process and “raised the bar on inclusion of LGBT issues in the political process.”
Shaps sat on the Philadelphia Steering Committee of the Human Rights Campaign from 2000-06, where he served as political chair and co-chair of the panel, and was elected to the national HRC board from 2006-08.
He served as the executive director of the Montgomery County Democratic Committee from 1997-2000, a position that Padilla surmised helped shape his sharp political and lobbying skills.
“He was very determined,” she said. “He was very knowledgeable on a lot of different issues and really understood how to get things done politically.”
Shaps’ partner, Sherard Knight, said Shaps was a natural in the political world.
“He wanted to fight for rights,” Knight said. “That’s what he wanted to do to help his community.”
Knight joked that Shaps, whom he met more than 10 years ago at The Bike Stop, pulled him into his political realm and, in turn, supported Knight’s passion for gay softball.
Outside of his work in the LGBT-rights movement, Shaps was also an avid gardener, Knight said, and had a series of diverse positions throughout his career.
Shaps, a native of Boston who lived in Lower Merion, earned his bachelor’s degree in business from Boston University in 1979 and went on to work as a manager for Pier One and Comp USA.
Throughout the ’90s, Shaps worked as a development director and public-relations director at the AIDS Coalition of Southern New Jersey and later as director of operations for Thrift for AIDS.
From 2002-04 he served as a special-project assistant in the Office of Special Services at the School District of Philadelphia and from 2004-08 as a student accounting coordinator in the district’s Office of Special Finance.
He began work as a financial analyst at the Chester-Upland School District in 2008 but left in 2009 after his cancer diagnosis.
Shaps was predeceased by his mother Elizabeth and brother Thomas and, in addition to Knight, is survived by father Richard and stepmother Patricia Shaps and brothers Jonathan and Matthew.
A funeral was held Oct. 28, and Shaps was buried in Haym Salomon Memorial Park in Frazer.
Memorial contributions can be made in Shaps’ name to the Human Rights Campaign, 1640 Rhode Island Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20036.