California gay rights timeline
Posted on March 2, 2009
Filed Under Uncategorized
As gays and lesbians have fought for rights and won elected office, public opinion has shifted. Back in 1977, singer Anita Bryant of Florida was leading a Bible-based campaign against homosexuals, claiming they were sinners and a threat to children and family life. When pollsters asked more than 1,000 Californians – face to face, in their homes – whether they agreed with her, 45 percent said yes. Emotions still run high on the issue, but more Californians now say they know gays and lesbians, and approve of same-sex marriage. The shift is particularly pronounced among residents ages 18 to 29. Following are notable twists and turns in the history of California’s gay rights movement.
1951: The Mattachine Society, one of the first gay advocacy organizations in the United States, is incorporated in Los Angeles to combat oppression of homosexuals.
1955: The Daughters of Bilitis, a national lesbian organization, is founded in San Francisco.
1961: José Sarria runs for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, becoming what is believed to be the nation’s first openly gay candidate for public office.
1975: Assembly Bill 489, by Assemblyman Willie Brown, decriminalizes sexual acts performed in private by consenting adults in California.
1977: The state Legislature overwhelmingly votes to define civil marriage as a contract between a man and a woman. Harvey Milk later becomes the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California, winning a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
1978: Voters defeat Proposition 6, the Briggs initiative, named for Sen. John Briggs, which would have barred gays, lesbians and their supporters from teaching in public schools.
1979: Gov. Jerry Brown issues an executive order barring discrimination against state employees based on sexual orientation.
1984: Gov. George Deukmejian vetoes Assembly Bill 1, the first bill that would have banned job discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
1989: Senate Bill 202, by Sen. Diane Watson, requires law enforcement agencies to report hate crimes, including those in which a motivating factor is the victim’s sexual orientation.
1991: Gov. Pete Wilson vetoes Assembly Bill 101, by Assemblyman Terry Friedman, prohibiting discrimination against gays in the workplace.
1992: Wilson signs Friedman’s narrower measure, Assembly Bill 2601, which adds sexual orientation protections to the Labor Code.
1994: Sheila Kuehl is elected to the Assembly, becoming the state Legislature’s first openly lesbian or gay member.
1999: Assembly Bill 26, by Assemblywoman Carole Migden, creates the first statewide domestic partnership registry, allowing the partners of gay state employees to receive health benefits.
1999: Assembly Bill 1001, by Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa, adds sexual orientation to anti-discrimination provisions of the state Fair Employment and Housing Act.
1999: Assembly Bill 537, by Assemblywoman Sheila Kuehl, makes it illegal to harass students in public schools because of sexual orientation.
2000: Voters pass Proposition 22, which banned same-sex marriage.
2001: Migden’s Assembly Bill 25 greatly expands the rights of domestic partners to include health benefits through private group insurance, death benefits, sick leave, tax deductions and adoption of stepchildren.
2002: The nation’s first legislative Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Caucus is formed in the Legislature. It comprises Assembly members Kuehl, Migden, Jackie Goldberg and Christine Kehoe.
2002: John Laird and Mark Leno are elected to the Assembly, becoming the first openly gay men in the Legislature and members of the LGBT Caucus.
2003: Assembly Bill 205 by Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg extends to registered domestic partners nearly all the same rights and responsibilities provided to opposite-sex spouses in California.
2004: San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom orders city officials to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. More than 4,000 couples receive licenses and are married before the California Supreme Court orders a halt to the process until its constitutionality can be determined.
2004: Assembly Bill 2208, by Assemblywoman Christine Kehoe, bars insurance providers from discriminating against domestic partners.
2005: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoes Assembly Bill 849, by Assemblyman Mark Leno, which would have legalized same-sex marriage. Schwarzenegger urged gay rights advocates to wait for court rulings on Proposition 22 or ask the voters to repeal the ban.
2008: In a 4-3 decision May 16, the California Supreme Court rules that the state constitution gives gays and lesbians the right to marry. On Nov. 4, voters approve Proposition 8, the ban that’s now being challenged.
Sources: Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life; the American Civil Liberties Union; Encyclopedia Britannica; World Book Encyclopedia; Bee news archives.
Bee research/Aurelio Rojas, Pete Basofin and Micaela Massimino.
See California gay rights timeline
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