Arrested for having sex with men, this gay civil rights leader could finally be pardoned in CaliforniaBreaking News
tags: civil rights, gay rights, LGBTQ history, Bayard Rustin
A decade before Bayard Rustin became a chief organizer of the 1963 March on Washington, the civil rights activist was booked into a Los Angeles County jail on suspicion of “lewd vagrancy.”
On that night in January 1953, hours after Rustin had given a speech in Pasadena, Calif., police officers spotted him in a parked car, having sex with one of the other two men in the car. Rustin was sentenced to 60 days in jail and forced to register as a sex offender for the “morals charge,” which was often used to target gay people in those years.
Rustin would ultimately become one of the key leaders of the civil rights movement. He advised the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on nonviolent tactics, helped organize the Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott and helped create the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. But the arrest remained a stain on his record, nearly exiling him from the movement he helped build.
Now, on the anniversary of his arrest, lawmakers in California are asking Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) to posthumously pardon Rustin and “right this wrong.”
“There’s a cloud hanging over him because of this unfair, discriminatory conviction, a conviction that never should have happened, a conviction that happened only because he was a gay man,” said state Sen. Scott Wiener, chair of California’s legislative LGBTQ caucus.
In a news conference Tuesday, Wiener joined with Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, chair of the state’s Legislative Black Caucus, to formally ask the governor for the pardon.
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