Last edited: March 08, 2006



  • Statute: Repealed effective 1976


"The primary focus of the gay movement in the early 1970s was repealing anti-gay sodomy laws. After several legislative attempts and demonstrations organized by the Metropolitan Community Church founder Rev. Troy Perry, among others, the Consenting Adults Bill authored by Assemblyman Willie Brown passed with the tie-breaking, late-night vote by Lt. Gov. Merv Dymallyin May of 1975 and was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown.

"With that success came a backlash that included orange juice shill Anita Bryant’s anti-gay crusade, the campaign to pass the Briggs initiative to outlaw gay teachers, and the assassination of openly gay San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk. In his second inaugural address in January 1979, Brown responded by calling for the inclusion of gays in the state’s anti-discrimination laws. That same month, Art Agnos, who had defeated Milkin a 1976 race for the Assembly, introduced the first bill in the state aimed at achieving that goal. About 200 activists marched on Sacramento to urge the bill’s passage."

-Frontiers Newsmagazine, October 15, 1999, California's Gay Golden Age (excerpt)

            1801     Though carried out under Spanish law, the last known U.S. death sentence for sodomy occurs in California. Eighteen-year-old Jose Antonio Rosas is shot by a firing squad.

            1850     California’s first criminal code is enacted, and includes a ban on sodomy. The law begins with the preface, “The People of the State of California, represented in Senate and Assembly, do enact as follows:”. However, the law was enacted in April when California still was a territory. It did not become a state until September, and it is unclear if this made the original law invalid.

            1897     The California Supreme Court upholds the sodomy convictions of two prisoners for relations with each other in their cell, the first published U.S. case dealing with sex in a prison.

            1909     California is the first state to adopt a sterilization law covering “sexual perverts.”

            1915     A California appellate court is the first in the nation to ponder, in a written opinion, the nature of human sexuality in a sodomy case.

            1915     California expands its sodomy law by enacting a law against oral sex. This unique law actually outlawed the acts of “fellatio” and “cunnilingus,” the first uses of these words in a U.S. statute. Four years later, the California Supreme Court struck down the law, saying that “fellatio” and “cunnilingus” are not words of ordinary use in the English language, something California law requires. The legislature responds by outlawing “oral copulation.”

            1919     A California appellate court upholds a sodomy conviction that followed a mother’s drilling holes in her 14-year-old son’s bedroom wall to see what he was doing with a partner.

            1925     A California appellate court upholds a sodomy conviction that is the first case in the nation to mention condoms found in the home as evidence admitted against the defendant.

            1927     A California appellate court upholds a sodomy conviction that followed a mother’s hiring a private detective to hide under the bed of her son’s partner and burst out during their sex.

            1939     California enacts the nation’s first law requiring revocation of a teacher’s license if the teacher is convicted of sodomy or oral copulation.

            1947     California is the first state in the nation to enact a “sex offender registration law.” It requires registration and reports of changes of address of persons convicted of sex offenses, including consensual sodomy and oral copulation.

            1951     A California appellate court rules that Gay men are vagrant per se, permitting them to be jailed without committing any criminal act.

            1962     The California Supreme Court is the first in the nation to find a right to privacy in enclosed restroom stalls, reversing convictions for consensual sodomy occurring therein. Many other state courts follow this decision.

            1969     California enacts a unique law, signed by Governor Ronald Reagan, permitting the treatment of sexual psychopaths by means of prayer alone.


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