1991 - Present

Race: 2000

Young Eliazer Williams at a Press ConferenceYoung Eliazer Williams at a Press ConferenceOn the 46th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that prohibited segregated schools, a coalition of civil rights organizations files a lawsuit, Williams v. California, charging that the state is not fulfilling its constitutional mandate to provide the bare minimum infrastructure for students in 18 public schools serving largely poor children of color or immigrants. The lawsuit later expands to include one million students in all substandard California public schools.

Disability Rights: 2000

Governor Gray Davis signs the Prudence Poppink Act, which explicitly states that California’s anti-discrimination protections cover a broader group of people with disabilities than the ADA. The law is named after an attorney and activist that many consider the “mother of disability law” in California.

Criminal Justice: 2001

Prison Law Office files lawsuits charging that inadequate health care in California’s overcrowded prisons violates the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Immigrants' Rights: 2001

In the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, the federal government institutes round-up, questioning, and surveillance programs targeting Arab, South Asian, and Middle Eastern immigrant communities.

LGBT Rights: 2002

Transgender woman Gwen Arajo murdered by four men at a party in Newark, California.

Women: 2002

Therapeutic Abortion Act, passed in 1967, is struck from the statute books and replaced with the Reproductive Privacy Act, guaranteeing every woman’s right to control her own childbearing.

Race: 2003

Voters reject Proposition 54, which would have banned the collection of data on race or ethnicity by any state government agency. Such data is necessary to track, prove and litigate against racial discrimination.


Oakland police use sting ball grenades and shot-filled beanbags to shoot at peaceful protestors against the war in Iraq, injuring 58 people. The police department eventually agrees to a $2 million settlement and to prohibit the use of dangerous weapons against protestors.

A Fresno sheriff’s deputy infiltrates the anti-war group Peace Fresno. California Attorney General Bill Lockyer investigates and concludes that Peace Fresno members’ constitutional rights have been violated.

See Peace Fresno in “Fahrenheit 911:

Criminal Justice: 2003

California Highway Patrol (CHP) reaches a settlement in Rodriguez v. California Highway Patrol, a 1998 class action lawsuit filed on behalf of African Americans, Latinos, and Asian Americans who believe they were stopped by highway patrol officers because of their race. The CHP agrees to ban pretext stops and racial profiling, and to collect data on the race and ethnicity of drivers stopped and searched.

LGBT Rights: 2003

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rules in Flores v. Morgan Hill Unified School District that public school officials have a proactive duty to end on-campus anti-gay harassment and discrimination once they are aware of it.

In Lawrence v. Texas, the U.S. Supreme Court overturns its 1986 Bowers decision and rules that state sodomy laws are unconstitutional.

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