On April 15, 2013, Sal Castro, a teacher and counselor in Los Angeles schools for more than 35 years, died at his home in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles.
In March 1968, Castro was a 34-year-old social studies teacher at Lincoln High School in East Los Angeles. He helped organize Chicano students who were frustrated by overcrowded, understaffed, and run down schools in their neighborhoods.
Using the word "blowout" as the password for a student strike, 300 Chicano students walked out of Wilson High School on March 1. The following day, 2,000 walked out of Wilson High School; the next day they were joined by 4,500 students from nearby Lincoln and Roosevelt High Schools.
Students were unprepared for the violent police reaction to their protest. As students picketed in front of their high schools, Los Angeles police officers descended, attacking them with clubs.
Officers identified student leaders and chased them through residential neighborhoods, where Mexican American families looked on in shock.
The "blowouts" and the police response attracted national attention, spotlighting the bleak educational conditions in East Los Angeles.
Eventually Castro and 12 others were indicted on charges of criminally conspiring to create riots, disrupt the functioning of the public schools, and disturb the peace.
Thousands of people picketed in front of the Los Angeles jail to support Castro and the 12 others who were called the "East L.A. Thirteen."
Charges were ultimately dropped against the East L.A. Thirteen after an appellate court judge ruled that they were exercising their fundamental First Amendment rights.
In a legal brief to the Supreme Court, the Justice Department argues that Proposition 8, California's ban on same-sex marriage, violates the United State's Constitution's equal protection clause.
The brief urges the high court to consider Proposition 8 under "heightened scrutiny," a legal test in which supporters of the ban must clearly demonstrate an important government purpose for discrimination.
Proposition 8, the Obama administration says, fails to meet that standard.
Justice Department attorneys argue that the justifications forwarded by Proposition 8's supporters --promoting "responsible procreation," affirming the "traditional definition" of marraige, and proceeding with caution on divisive social issues--do not advance a significant government purpose that would be accomplished by excluding gay couples from marrying.
The "procreation" argument could be used to deny marriage to infertile heterosexual couples, and "tradition" was historically used to justify racial segregation, the brief explains.
The brief offers the court a way to strike down Proposition 8 but limit the impact of its decision to California and seven other states that deny gay couples the right to marry but that recognize same-sex civil unions or domestic partnerships.
The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the Proposition 8 case on March 26. The following day, the justices will hold a hearing on a challenge to the "Defense of Marriage Act," which denies federal recognition to same-sex married couples.
The Obama administration filed its brief the day after results were released from a new Field Poll indicating that 61 percent of California voters now favor allowing same sex couples the right to marry.
Decades before a majority of Americans believed that same-gender couples should be allowed to marry, Richard Adams (right) married his partner Anthony Sullivan (center), an Australian (pictured here with attorney David M. Brown).
Adams and Sullivan met at a Los Angeles bar in 1971 and quickly fell in love. On March 20, 1975 at the Metropolitan Community Church, a lesbian and gay Christian congregation, Adams and Sullivan solemnized their partnership in a religious ceremony.
The two planned to petition the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) for residency for Sullivan under the concept of freedom of religion.
Soon after the ceremony, the couple read that the county clerk of Boulder, Colorado, was issuing marriage licenses to gay couples. Adams and Sullivan boarded a plane and married in Boulder on April 21, 1975.
Four days later, Adams petitoned the INS to classify Sullivan as his immediate relative, thereby allowing his new spouse to remain in the country. The INS district director denied the petition, writing: "You have failed to establish that a bona fide marital relationship can exist between two faggots."
Adams brought a lawsuit to overturn the INS's decision, the first federal lawsuit seeking same-gender marriage recognition. In 1979, a judge ruled against the couple.
Six years later, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals also ruled against Adams and Sullivan. Writing for the majority, Anthony Kennedy, later appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, stated, "We do not find that the respondent's separation from his 'life partner' will cause him hardship, emotional or otherwise, sufficient to rise to the level of extreme hardship."
Adams' application for Australian residency had been denied. So after their legal defeats, the couple believed that the only way they could stay together was to leave United States. They traveled in Europe for the following year. Sullivan was able to reenter the U.S. where he and Adams quietly lived in Los Angeles for decades with no legal protection.
Adams lived to see a major victory when in October the Obama administration issued policy guidelines saying that same-gender couples in long-term partnerships "rise to the level of a 'family relationship'" when it comes to deportation.
The U.S. Supreme Court recently announced that it will hear two cases dealing with same-gender marriage: one focused on California's Proposition 8 and the other on the federal "Defense of Marriage Act."
Many legal observers consider Justice Kennedy an important vote in both cases.
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