Decades after his arrest for having sex with men, a gay civil rights leader is pardonedBreaking News
tags: civil rights, LGBTQ history, Bayard Rustin
He was a chief organizer of the 1963 March on Washington, a crucial strategist on nonviolent tactics and an adviser to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Bayard Rustin was also openly gay. And in 1953, he was arrested for having consensual sex with men in Pasadena, Calif. The “morals charge,” which was often used to target gay people in those years, remained a stain on his record and nearly sidelined him from the movement he helped create.
On Wednesday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) issued a posthumous pardon for Rustin.
Inspired by a call from lawmakers to pardon the civil rights leader, Newsom also announced a clemency initiative that would help clear the records of other people who faced discriminatory charges for consensual activity with people of the same sex.
“In California and across the country, many laws have been used as legal tools of oppression, and to stigmatize and punish LGBTQ people and communities and warn others what harm could await them for living authentically,” Newsom said in a statement. “I thank those who advocated for Bayard Rustin’s pardon, and I want to encourage others in similar situations to seek a pardon to right this egregious wrong.”
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