Law and History Review


“Our Militancy is in Our Openness”: Gay Employment Rights Activism in California and the Question of Sexual Orientation in Sex Equality Law

Katherine Turk 

On Good Friday of 1973, members of San Francisco's homosexual community staged a public demonstration amidst the skyscrapers in the business district. Shen Hayes, described as a “frail nineteen-year-old,” claimed to embody the suffering of the city's gay population. Hayes dragged a telephone pole “cross” on his back while throngs of protesters cheered and chanted. The local minister leading the action likened gays’ lack of rights to murder, and the caption accompanying Hayes’ photo in the newspaper claimed that he and other gay Californians had been “crucified.” Despite, despite the protest's religious intensity, its objective was secular. Activists had convened to oppose discrimination against those workers whom Pacific Telephone & Telegraph (PT&T) had labeled “manifest homosexuals”: employees and job applicants who either claimed or seemed to be gay.


Katherine Turk is assistant professor of history at the University of Texas at Dallas <>.


  She thanks Margot Canaday, Mary Anne Case, Anthony Cotton, Erik Gellman, Sarah Barringer Gordon, Darryl Heller, Betty Luther Hillman, Stuart Michaels, Deborah Nelson, Emily Remus, James T. Sparrow, Amy Dru Stanley, Christine Stansell, Christopher Todd, Deborah Widiss, Susan Williams, and Tim Wilson. She gives special thanks to Ajay Mehrotra for his thorough and extremely helpful comments on the penultimate draft. She also thanks the Gender and Sexuality Studies Workshop at the University of Chicago; the American Society for Legal History; the Center for the Study of Law, Society and Culture at Indiana University Maurer School of Law; and the editors and anonymous reviewers of the Law and History Review.