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Tech legend and LGBTQ+ activist Bruce Bastian dies at 76

Tech legend and LGBTQ+ activist Bruce Bastian dies at 76

Bruce Bastian, a pioneer for gay rights who is responsible for massive advances in word processing, died on June 16 at his home in Palm Springs, California.

Bastian was from Utah, and was a founding member of Equality Utah, the state LGBTQ+ advocacy organization. Current Equality Utah executive director Troy Williams said, “Every success our community has achieved over the past three decades can be traced directly back to Bruce.”

Bastian was originally a devout Mormon, and attended Brigham Young University (BYU) in St Lake City, Utah where he developed his word processing system, WordPerfect. However, after he came out as gay he withdrew his name from the records of the Mormon Church.

Bastian was in graduate school at BYU when he founded the company that would become WordPerfect with Alan C. Ashton, his business partner. Together, the two “were at the forefront of making computers more productive for daily tasks,” The New York Times said in his obituary.

Bastian married his best friend Melanie Laycock in 1976, and together they had four sons. In the late 1980s on a business trip to Amsterdam, he had his first gay experience. Bastian came out to his wife a few days later, and a few years later he told the world and renounced his Mormon faith, starting his time as a LGBTQ+ rights advocate and pioneer.

He was a major benefactor to the Human Rights Campaign and advocated fiercely for gay equality.

In a statement, President of the Human Rights Campaign Kelley Robinson said, “We are devastated to hear of the passing of Bruce Bastian, whose legacy will have an undeniably profound impact on the LGBTQ+ community for decades to come. Bruce was in this fight, working at every level of politics and advocacy, for over three decades.”

“He traveled all across this country on HRC’s behalf and worked tirelessly to help build an inclusive organization where more people could be a part of this work. It’s hard to overstate the immense footprint he leaves behind for LGBTQ+ advocates in Washington, D.C., Utah and beyond.Bruce stood up for every one of us and uplifted the beautiful diversity of our community. It’s the kind of legacy we should all be proud to propel forward,” she added.

In 1997, he started his own organization, the B.W. Bastian Foundation, “which adopted a policy of supporting only organizations that wholeheartedly embrace the principle of equality.”

Besides supporting LGBTQ+ rights, Bastian also was a supporter of the arts, including Ballet West, the Utah Symphony and Opera, and many other arts organizations throughout Utah and the Intermountain West.”

He is survived by his husband, Clint Ford whom he married in 2018, as well as his sons Rick, Darren, Jeff and Robert; two sisters, Camille Cox and Marietta Peterson; a brother, Reese Bastian; and 14 grandchildren.

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