Capital Pride founder and longtime community activist Bernie Delia has died

June 23, 2024

Capital Pride float in 2008. (Credit: Vincent Slatt)

Capital Pride float in 2008. (Credit: Vincent Slatt)

After decades of service to the LGBTQ community, Bernie Delia, resident of Washington, DC since 1982, died this weekend at 68. Delia most recently served as co-chair of WorldPride, was a founding member of the Capital Pride Alliance and six-year Board President, according to a statement by Capital Pride.

After coming out in the 1980s, Delia began serving the LBGTQ+ community, according to his oral history taken in 2021. Delia took an interest in history and politics very early in life, and his education in law school led to his career in federal and local government. As a member of the Dignity Committee Chairs, one of the only openly gay members of the Justice Department during the Clinton Administration, hostess of the Catholic Church, and other positions of influence, Delia brought visibility to the AIDS crisis during its height and brought a spirit of diversity to the gay community.

He joined Whitman-Walker’s Capital Pride Planning Committee in 2006 and helped found the Capital Pride Alliance in 2008. He shaped Pride into what it is today, shepherding in the ever-growing diversity, accessibility, and inclusion. According to his 2021 oral history with the Rainbow History Project, he believed pride was important now more than ever.

“I think we have said for decades that people’s willingness to be out and willingness to identify as who they are, is extremely important,” he said in his oral history interview. “And I think the last 20 years has shown that because as more of us are out, more people who are not in the community know about us, are aware of us, understand who we are.”

Delia was preceded by his husband Doug in 2006. He is survived by thousands of gay community members in the city he loved that are indebted to his activism.

“All of the hopes and dreams that we had about what Pride could be and what CPA could do, are things that Bernie actualized over the last many years and in his work for next year,” RHP Director of Archiving Vincent Slatt said in a statement. “He wasn’t the first one to say it, but he always reminded everyone: ‘we make each Pride special because, for someone, it is their First Pride, and they’ll remember it always.’ Bernie lived that ideal each and every year. WorldPride 2025 will be a testament to his efforts and his legacy will live on–it will be someone’s First Pride. We’ll try to make Bernie proud of us.”

Bernie Delia’s oral history interview is part of the Rainbow History Project Archives. You can listen to it online, read the transcript, or check for further information.

Correction: A previous post of this article said that Delia’s age was 64. He was 68.