elisa_rolle (elisa_rolle) wrote,

Herb Donaldson (February 12, 1927 – December 5 2008)

Herb Donaldson was an openly gay San Francisco lawyer who gained national attention for his efforts to legally block San Francisco police from harassing attendees of a fund-raising ball for the Council on Religion and the Homosexual, an early homophile organization, on January 1, 1965.

On the eve of January 1, 1965, several homophile organizations in San Francisco, California - including the Council on Religion and the Homosexual, the Society for Individual Rights, the Daughters of Bilitis, and the Mattachine Society - organized a fund-raising ball for their mutual benefit to be held at the California Hall. Prior to the ball, several of the ministers from the Council on Religion met with the San Francisco police, who tried to get them to cancel it. The clergy members declined to cancel the event, and the San Francisco police initially agreed not to interfere. However, on the evening of the ball, the police showed up in force and surrounded the California Hall and focused numerous kleig lights on the entrance to the hall. As each of the 600 plus persons entering the ball approached the entrance, the police took their photographs. A number of police paddy wagons were parked in plain view near the entrance to the ball.

Evander Smith, a lawyer for the groups organizing the ball, and Herb Donaldson tried to stop the police from conducting the fourth "inspection" of the evening; both were arrested, along with two heterosexual lawyers - Elliott Leighton and Nancy May - who were supporting the rights of the participants to gather at the ball.

On January 2, 1965, ministers associated associated with the Council on Religion and the Homosexual held a news conference in protest of Smith, Donaldson, and the other two lawyers arrested as well as the police harassment to which the ball attendees had been subjected. Twenty-five of the most prominent lawyers in San Francisco joined the defense team for the four lawyers, and the judge directed the jury to find the four not-guilty before the defense had even had a chance to begin their argumentation when the case came to court.

This event has been called the "San Francisco's Stonewall" by some historians; the participation of such prominent litigators in the defense of the Smith, Donaldson, and the other two lawyers marked a turning point in gay rights on the West Coast of the United States.

Governor Jerry Brown appointed Donaldson as the first openly gay municipal court judge in the State of California a number of years later.

Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herb_Donaldson_(lawyer)

Further Readings:

Making Gay History: The Half Century Fight for Lesbian and Gay Equal Rights by Eric Marcus
Paperback: 496 pages
Publisher: Harper Perennial (May 28, 2002)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0060933917
ISBN-13: 978-0060933913
Amazon: Making Gay History: The Half Century Fight for Lesbian and Gay Equal Rights
Amazon Kindle: Making Gay History: The Half Century Fight for Lesbian and Gay Equal Rights

From the Boy Scouts and the U.S. military to marriage and adoption, the gay civil rights movement has exploded on the national stage.Eric Marcus takes us back in time to the earliest days of that struggle in a newly revised and thoroughly updated edition of Making History, originally published in 1992.Using the heart-felt stories of more than 60 people, he carries us through the compelling five-decade battle that has changed the fabric of American society.

The rich tapestry that emerges from Making Gay History includes the inspiring voices of teenagers and grandparents, journalists and housewives, from the little known Dr. Evelyn Hooker and Morty Manford to former Vice President Al Gore, Ellen DeGeneres, and Abigail Van Buren. Together, these many stories bear witness to a time of astonishing change as gay and lesbian people have struggled against prejudice and fought for equal rights under the law.

More LGBT History at my website: http://www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Persistent Voices

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Tags: gay classics, persistent voices

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