LGBT Rights

[Chapter 09] That Dare Not Speak Its Name: The Rights of Lesbians, Gay Men, Bisexuals and Transgender People

More than four years before the Stonewall riot in New York, a pivitol event for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender freedom took place not in New York but two blocks from San Francisco's city hall.


Governor Acts on Civil Liberties Bills

October 2, 2012

Facing a September 30 deadline to decide on proposed legislation, Governor Brown took action on several civil liberties-related bills impacting workers, immigrants, LGBT youth, clergy, and the criminal justice system.

Workers:  He vetoed a bill that would have provided labor protections like overtime pay and meal breaks for domestic workers.  He also vetoed proposals allowing farmworkers to sue employers who deprive them of water and shade.

Immigrants:  The governor vetoed a bill that would have prohibited local law enforcement agencies from detaining individuals for suspected immigration violations unless accused of a violent or serious crime. He approved legislation allowing undocumented young people brought to the U.S. as children to obtain driver's licenses.

LGBT Youth: Governor Brown signed legislation prohibiting psychotherapists from discredited efforts designed to change a young person's sexual orientation or gender identity. 

Religion: He signed a bill clarifying that no clergy members would be forced to perform marriages that run contrary to their religous beliefs.

Criminal Justice:  The governor approved a bill allowing approximately 300 prisoners, issued life sentences as juveniles, the opportunity to appeal for shorter prison terms.

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In the final two days before a legislative deadline, Governor Brown signed and vetoed numerous bills impacting civil liberties

Federal Appellate Court Seeks Advice from California Supreme Court

January 5, 2011

In a technical legal twist in the ongoing federal litigation challenging the Constitutionality of Proposition 8, a three-judge panel of Ninth Circuit Court judges has asked the California Supreme Court for advice on whether the sponsors of the initiative, a coalition of conservative religious groups, have the legal right, or standing, to defend the measure on appeal.

Former Governor Schwarzenegger and former Attorney General now Governor Jerry Brown refused to defend the measure in court.

All three judges on the panel agree that California's initiative process "would appear to be ill-served" if state officials could effectively invalidate ballot measures by not defending them in court. But the panel is asking the California Supreme Court for it's opinion on whether the state Constitution would allow for non-state officials to defend an initiative.

If the state high court agrees to take on the question, it will be the fourth time that it has addressed a question related to same-sex marriage.  In 2004, the court invalidated same-sex marriages conducted in San Francisco after Mayor Gavin Newsom instructed the County Clerk to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. In 2008, the court ruled that state laws banning same-sex marriages violated the state constitution. But a few months later, voters passed Proposition 8 by 52-48% and amended the state constitution to bar same-sex marriages. When Proposition 8 was challenged, the state supreme court ruled that voters had a right to overturn the court's decision.

Even if the state high court rules that Proposition 8's sponsors have legal standing and the federal panel allows the case to proceed, the United States Supreme Court indicated in a 1997 case that it had "grave doubts" that an initiative's sponsors could replace state officials in court.

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Ninth Circuit panel asks state high court whether the California Constitution gives sponsors of Proposition 8 the legal right to defend the measure in appellate court.

Appeals Court Puts Same-Sex Marriages on Hold

August 16, 2010

Without comment, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals extended a stay on Judge Vaughn Walker's August 4 decision striking down Proposition 8.

Gay couples will not be allowed to marry until at least early December, when the appellate court will hear arguments whether Proposition 8, the voter-approved ban on same-sex marriages, is unconstitutional.

Judge Walker had ordered his ruling to take effect at 5:00 on August 18 unless the appellate court issued a stay. 

In extending the stay, the Ninth Circuit judges instructed proponents of Proposition 8 to explain why they have legal standing in the case. Some legal experts question whether any entity but the state of California, which is responsible for enforcing the ban, can challenge Judge Walker's decision on appeal.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenneger and Attorney General Jerry Brown, as representatives of the state, were defendants in the case before Judge Walker. But soon after Walker's decision both Schwarzenneger and Brown filed legal briefs asking the judge to allow same-sex couples to marry.  

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Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals extends stay until December when it will hear the appeal of Proposition 8 supporters.

U.S. Supreme Court To Consider Government Background Checks

March 9, 2010

On March 8, the high court agreed to hear the case of 28 scientists and engineers working for the NASA-funded Jet Propulsion Labratory who objected to invasive government background checks. The employees, most of whom have worked for decades for the California Institute of Technology under a contract with NASA, had passed background checks when they were first hired. However, a 2004 Bush administration order compelled them to undergo a second background check in order to meet increased security standards.

None of the workers were assigned to top-secret projects, but they nevertheless faced investigations, including probes into their medical and finanical records, emotional and psychological condition, and other personal matters.

When they refused to agree to the checks, they faced dismisal. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the employees from being fired. 

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In 1947, President Harry Truman authorized investigations into the loyalty of every federal employee and applicant for federal employment. Individuals were spied on because they had years earlier expressed sympathy for militant labor leaders. Others were scrutinized because their relatives or neighbors were allegedly sympathetic to communism.

In 1953, President Dwight Eisenhower issued an executive order designating "sexual perversion" (i.e. homosexuality) a basis for denying federal employment, and for firing employees under the government security program that had initially targeted "subversives." In 1960, he issued an executive order establishing the Industrial Security Program to protect the government from security threats posed by private sector employees working on government contracts; this order became the basis for barring gay people from the private sector defense industry.

Justices to rule on case brought by scientists and engineers at Southern California's Jet Propulsion Labratory who believe that invasive government background checks violate their Constitutional rights.

Wherever There's a Fight on New America Now Radio Program

November 12, 2009

Wherever There's a Fight co-author, Stan Yogi, spoke with Sandip Roy, host of New America Now: Dispatches from the New Majority.  The interview was broadcast on San Francisco's KALW radio on Friday, November 6, and again on Sunday, November 8.  Listen to the interview by clicking on the button below.

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Listen to Wherever There's a Fight co-author Stan Yogi being interviewed by Sandip Roy of KALW's New America Now.

Tenth Anniversary Edition of "Wherever There's a Fight" to be Released

September 24, 2019

Heyday is proud to announce the publication of the Tenth Anniversary edition of Wherever There’s A Fight:  How Runaway Slaves, Suffragists, Immigrants, Strikers and Poets Shaped Civil Liberties in California

According to Heyday publisher Steve Wasserman, "Ten years ago, Heyday published Elaine Elinson and Stan Yogi's stirring compendium of California heroes, both sung and unsung, who down the decades demonstrated exemplary courage fighting the good fight to ensure civil liberties for all Californians and in so doing helped put the golden state at the forefront of a better, more just America. The stories they tell so well are needed now more than ever and this tenth anniversary edition is designed to reach readers everywhere, young and old alike, to inspire and provide hope for new generations of citizens who continue to fulfill the promise of the California--nay, American, dream."

November 5 release date set for special anniversary edition of award-winning book whose stories of civil liberties struggles are all the more relevant now.

Governor Signs Seth's Law

October 18, 2011

Governor Brown approved a bill named in honor of Seth Walsh, a 13 year old who hung himself after years of anti-gay harassment while a student in the Tehachapi Unified School District in Kern County.

The law, which goes into effect on January 1, 2012, creates uniform anti-bullying standards, requires teachers who witness harassment to intervene, and establishes procedures for students and parents to file complaints.

In a recent national survey, 9 out of 10 LGBT students reported being harassed at school. The problem persists in California. The California Safe Schools Coalition reported in 2010 that 42% of California students who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual and 62% who identify as transgender reported being harassed at least once based on gender non-conformity.

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Legislation named for gay student who committed suicide sets anti-harassment standards for all California public schools

Appeals Court Allows "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Policy to Stand Temporarily

October 21, 2010

Responding to an Obama administration request, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay temporarily halting a lower court judge's ruling forbidding the federal government from enforcing its policy of discharging openly gay and lesbian military personnel.

On October 19, U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips refused to suspend her injunction, issued a week earlier, barring the military from continuing to implement its 17-year-old policy. The following day the Justice Department filed an appeal. 

On September 9, Judge Philliips had ruled in her Riverside courtroom that the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy unconstitutionally violates gay service members' privacy rights and reduces military effectiveness by exacerbating troop shortages and removing skilled personnel from the armed forces.

A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit set an October 25 deadline for the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay rights advocacy group that brought the lawsuit against "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," to present its arguments why the military should be prevented from dismissing gay military members while the case is on appeal.


After a week of uncertainty whether gay and lesbian military personnel could still be discharged in the wake of a landmark federal court decision striking "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issues a temporary stay allowing continued enforcement of the policy.

Judge Hears Closing Arguments in Proposition 8 Trial

June 17, 2010

On June 16, Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker heard closing arguments and questioned attorneys on both sides of the landmark federal trial on Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot proposition that amended the California state constitution to prohibit same-sex marriages.

During the course of the five hour session, Charles Cooper, an attorney defending Proposition 8 argued that “the marital relationship is fundamental to the existence and survival of the race. Without the marital relationship, society would come to an end." Judge Walker seemed skeptical about this line of reasoning, noting that marriage is a right which extends fundamentally to all persons, regardless of whether they can produce children.

Representing the plaintiffs, who seek to overturn Proposition 8, former Solicitor General Theodore Olsen repeatedly cited the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark 1967 decision Loving v. Virginia, in which the high court struck down existing state laws prohibiting inter-racial marriages. He noted that supporters of anti-miscegenation laws claimed that if they were invalidated, the definition of marriage would be changed.

But Judge Walker noted that by the time of the Loving decision 27 states had rescinded anti-miscegenation laws and the Supreme Court took note of that change.

Judge Walker also seemed troubled that during two and a half weeks of trial testimony in January, the attorneys arguing to uphold Proposition 8 called only two witnesses. One was David Blankenhorn, an author and activist. Although he was called on to support Proposition 8, Blankenhorn ended up testifying that marriage would benefit gay and lesbian couples and their children, and that "we would be more American on the day we permitted same-sex marriage than we were the day before."

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Judge questions attorneys on both sides during a five hour session, bringing to a close the historic federal trial on the constitutionality of the state's ban on same-sex marriages. Ruling expected later this summer.
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