Peter Schott: Political Activist Finds Love in Rehoboth
As an undergraduate at the University of Maryland, I’ll never forget the day that gay activist Dr. Frank Kameny addressed my sociology class. Barely in my 20s and not yet at peace with my proclivities, I sat awestruck as this passionate man so eloquently articulated my most personal thoughts and emotions. Gadzooks! Could there be that many people out there who felt as I did?
Fast-forward (waaay forward) to the Rehoboth Beach Starbuck’s, where I’m waiting to interview Peter Schott for my column in a respected LGBT magazine. He was driving back from Washington, D.C., having attended a memorial service for none other than that very same Frank Kameny. If that name doesn’t mean anything to you, suffice it to say that you might not be reading this publication (or been able to pick it up just about anywhere) were it not for Dr. Kameny and people like him. Things aren’t perfect, but they’re a heck of a lot better than they were in that late ‘60s classroom in College Park.
Rehoboth Beach resident Peter Schott’s career in activism stems from that same passion. Whether you agree or disagree with the politics, the fact remains that those who make waves reserve for themselves the right to make a difference in the world.
Peter was born in The Bronx, New York. At the tender age of 7, his political fire was sparked when he accompanied his mother to the polls where she proudly cast her vote. By the time the ‘60s rolled around, he was already protesting the Vietnam War and stirring things up for welfare rights in Albany, New York—elbow-to-elbow with the late social advocate Bella Abzug.
He earned his degree in education, but his fascination with politics remained. So at 25 years old, he relocated to Washington, D.C., where New York congressman James Scheuer gave him a job as an intern. On his $6000 annual salary, Peter subsisted entirely on rumaki, finger sandwiches, tiny quiches, and Swedish meatballs served at political receptions.
Schott quickly became the go-to guy in the office. When Scheuer was defeated, Peter stayed on—and on. When the Republicans won that seat, he still kept the office running smoothly, finally leaving congressional work on his 50th birthday.
Peter regularly traveled to Rehoboth Beach as a favor for a colleague who was terrified of the Bay Bridge. He quickly found the Blue Moon, the Renegade, and The Palm, and he’d check-in to a rooming house (now the Royal Rose B&B) to revel in the distance between here and D.C. In ’87 he purchased a summer retreat in Bethany Beach, soon discovering the Nomad Village—the perfect spot for a little pick-me-up on the way home from (or on the way to) the Renegade.
As the Chairman of the local Democratic Party in Washington, D.C., Peter was outed in ’88 by a Washington Blade article exposing gay elected officials. When life continued unchanged, he became even more comfortable engaging in local politics. He held several positions in D.C., being elected Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner on three occasions, and serving in ’72 and ’96 as delegate to the National Democratic Convention. At one point, he reminded himself, “I’m retired! I need to relax.” So he moved to the beach full time.
Bethany is a nice place to visit, but after your 300th trip (per week) over the Indian River Bridge to enjoy friends and nightlife, it occurs to you that the gas expense alone would cover a mortgage payment in Rehoboth. So Peter emigrated northward.
All these decisions came together one evening at Rigby’s, when several of the barflies were chatting him up about politics this and election that. Exasperated, he turned to an attractive young man next to him and said, “I talk about this stuff all the time. I don’t want to sit here and talk about that!” Jeffrey Davis, visiting here from Chincoteague, was amused—and smitten.
When the evening ended, Peter assumed he’d seen the last of Davis—until the 1:47 a.m. email arrived. One thing led to another, and they moved in together on Friday, May 13th of last year. That day brought good fortune for Schott: “I’m one of the luckiest people in the world to have met him.”
Peter continues his activism for LGBT equal rights. He was the founder of the National Stonewall Democrats and the Barbara Gittings Delaware Stonewall Democrats. As the political V.P. for Delaware Stonewall, he played important roles in passage of non-discrimination and civil unions. He is Delaware’s representative on National Stonewall’s Leadership Council.
He was the first openly gay vice chairman of the County Democratic Committee in Delaware, and was appointed in ’06 to the State Human Relations Commission. He also serves on the Governor’s Council on Equal Employment Opportunity.
Peter’s busy schedule isn’t nearly as stressful now that he has Jeffrey to come home to. Indeed, an ancient proverb suggests, “When all your desires are distilled, you will just cast two votes: to love more, and to be happy.” Looks like Peter won by a landslide on both counts.
Bob Yesbek is a Rehoboth Beach resident. Email Bob Yesbek