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When the Valley Was Not Gay-Friendly

As LGBTQ Pride month comes to an end, CreaTV’s Valley Politics took time to remember when the Valley was not gay friendly and to note how far we’ve come.

In 1980, 70% of San Jose voters and 65% of Santa Clara County voters passed referenda overturning city and county ordinances prohibiting discrimination in housing, employment and government services on the basis of sexual orientation.

The gay rights movement took off after the Stonewall Riots in New York City in 1969. But as the demand for rights grew, so did the opposition, especially from the religious right. Some communities passed gay rights ordinances—and in several, they were rescinded by voter demand.

In 1979, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors and the San Jose City Council each passed gay rights ordinances after multiple public hearings and hours public of testimony. Within days, religious conservatives were circulating petitions to repeal the ordinances, quickly qualifying for a referendum on the June 1980 ballot. After a bitter campaign, voters in both the County and City overwhelmingly rejected the ordinances.

It took courage for local gays and lesbians to demand action by their elected representatives and for the county supervisors and city council members to support the ordinances. Back then the County was 62% white and 35% registered Republican compared to 36% white and 20% Republican now—a considerably more conservative electorate then than now.

Why did the county supervisors and city council members get so far out in front of their constituents? Why risk their careers?

Our July Special Edition of Valley Politics features four of the five county supervisors who voted on the ordinance (three favored, one opposed) talking about the experience—including an earthquake during one public hearing—as well as the impact it had on their lives and careers.

We’ve made progress in Santa Clara County and nationally since that 1980 vote. Cities, counties and the state of California have nondiscrimination ordinances on the books. Gays and lesbians have won election to local and state offices and the city, county and state have been leaders on domestic partner rights, same sex marriage and combatting AIDS/HIV. But the struggle continues: nineteen states still do not have nondiscrimination laws.

Check out our July special for the inside story of this dramatic moment in the Valley’s political history.

Editor’s Note: Check out Supervisor Ken Yeager’s OPED in The Mercury news titled “Remember when Silicon Valley was anti-gay? at

The Outlet