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Civil liberties are dynamic. Clashes over conflicting perspectives on freedom, equality, and justice occur regularly in the Golden state. Visit this page for news on civil liberties developments throughout California and how they relate to our past.

Bayard Rustin Posthumouly Pardoned

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February 10, 2020
<a title="New York World-Telegram and the Sun staff photographer: Wolfson, Stanl

On February 5, 2020, California governor Gavin Newsom announced that he was pardoning Bayard Rustin, the civil rights leader who helped plan the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the 1963 March on Washington.  Rustin died in 1987 at age 75.

Police in Pasadena, California, arrested Rustin in 1953 for having sex with another man in a parked car.  Rustin served 50 days in Los Angeles County jail and had to register as a sex offender.

At the time, law enforcement officers regularly cited California's vagrancy laws--specifically sections that addressed "soliciting or engaging in lewd or dissolute conduct"-- to justify arresting individuals they believed to be gay or members of other marginalized groups.

In 1947, the state required indivduals convicted of "immoral conduct," including consensual same-gender sexual intimacy (even kissing and dancing), to register as sex offenders.  Those individuals were not allowed to teach in public school, hold government jobs, or run for public office.

Governor Newsom not only pardoned Rustin but announced a broader clemency initiative to pardon individuals convicted of state laws targeting gay people.

In 1975, the state of California decriminalized private consenxual sex between adults of the same gender. And in 1997, the state established a process for individuals to remove their names from the sex offender registry, if they were convicted under earlier laws criminalizing gay people.  But that process doesn't address their underlying criminal convictions.

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

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September 24, 2019
from Heyday

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."

Gov. Newsom Issues Executive Order Apologzing to California Indians

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June 19, 2019

In West Sacramento, at the site of the future California Indian Heritage Center, Governor Gavin Newsom issued an historic formal apology to the state's native people and their descendents. 

He acknowledged that California's early political leaders expended more than $1 million to pay militas to hunt and kill Indians, and that the state's first governor announced that a "war of extermination will continue to be waged between the two races until the Indian race becomes extinct."

California Indians were also subject to an 1850 law, titled "An Act for the Government and Protection of Indians," that allowed a judge to declare an unemployed Indian a vagrant who could be sold to the highest bidder as an indentured servant. 

The law also allowed an Indian child to be indentured to a white family until the child reached maturity. Many Indian children were kidnapped and sold as a result.

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