Former Governor George Deukmejian leaves anti-gay legacy

Former California Governor George Deukmejian, who died Tuesday, left an anti-gay legacy that public officials are ignoring. Photo: Associated Press.

LONG BEACH — Former California Gov. George Deukmejian died Tuesday and local media outlets and public servants stumbled over themselves to heap praise on Deukmejian, calling him “Long Beach’s favorite son” and “one of the most honorable individuals… and a great public servant.”

The elephant in the room they ignored is Deukmejian’s anti-gay legacy.

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, who identifies as gay, also avoided Deukmejian’s record against the LGBTQ community.


Garcia Tweeted that “The entire Long Beach community is mourning the loss of Governor George Deukmejian…He has supported Long Beach his whole life.”

In 2015, Garcia also bestowed a key to the city to Deukmejian, saying he had “made outstanding contributions to our city and our state.”

Whitewashing Deukmejian’s record — which inflicted enormous harm on the LGBTQ community — doesn’t serve the public and is a kick in the stomach to the local queer community.

The irony is that many of these same elected officials who support Deukmejian also have and will fawn over the queer community — especially when asking for campaign donations and devising publicity stunts to make them look like allies.

Transgender HIV prevention programs offered at Long Beach, Baldwin Hills health clinics

Here’s a quick look at Deukmejian’s record as governor (1983-1991).


Deukmejian vetoed two bills (one in 1984 and one in 1986) that would have prevented discrimination in employment based on sexual orientation.

Deukmejian vetoed a bill in 1986 that would have prevented AIDS patients from being fired or denied housing. At the time, Assemblyman Art Agnos (D-San Francisco) said Deukmejian’s veto reflected “his extraordinary and incomprehensible isolation from the world that requires his attention” and “this kind of leadership is unbecoming of the governor of California and clearly has placed him in an extremist position,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

Also, Bruce Decker an openly an openly gay Republican named by the then-governor to the state’s AIDS Advisory Committee, said that he was “disappointed and saddened by the governor’s veto  of this important effort,” the Times reported.


Deukmejian supported Prop. 102 in 1988. That ballot measure, which was defeated, would have abolished anonymous HIV testing, required everyone who tested positive for HIV/AIDS to be reported to health authorities, who would have then traced all the person’s sexual contacts.

Former U.S. Surgeon Gen. C. Everett Koop criticized the bill’s attempt to end anonymous HIV testing in a Times article.

“I don’t know anybody in the public health community who thinks that’s a good idea,” Koop told the newspaper. The ballot measure, which was defeated by voters, also was assailed by the California Medical Association and the deans of Schools of Public Health at UCLA, U.C. Berkeley, among others.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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