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William Dannemeyer, ex-Congressman and gay hater, dead at 89

William Dannemeyer

Ex-California Congressman and infamous gay hater William Dannemeyer has died, according to published reports. He was 89. Photo: C-SPAN screengrab

Ex-California Congressman and infamous gay hater William Dannemeyer has died, according to published reports.

Dannemeyer, who died Tuesday, had been suffering from dementia, according to the Orange County Register. A cause of death was not listed. The article doesn’t say where Dannemeyer died.

William Dannemeyer

The seven-term California Republican, who also was an extreme social conservative, was well known for his antigay activism and public vitriol of the gay community.

At various times during his 14-year political career, Dannemeyer supported a mandatory quarantine of people with AIDS, spoke out against allowing nurses with HIV to work with children, and wished people with HIV would vanish from the planet.

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Dannemeyer represented an Orange County district in the House of Representatives from 1979 to 1993.

Dannemyer left the House to run for U.S. Senate in 1992, but lost the Republican primary to John Seymour. Dannemeyer ran again for the U.S. Senate in 1994, but failed a second time.

Political career

Dannemeyer was born in Long Beach and graduated from Long Beach Poly High in 1946.

In 1959, Dannemeyer was a Santa Barbara lawyer who moved to the City of Fullerton to build a new political career as an Orange County Republican. He was the assistant city attorney before getting elected as a Democrat to the California Assembly in 1962. He was re-elected in 1964.

Joined Republican Party

In 1968, Dannemeyer said the Democratic Party was too liberal and became a Republican. He was elected to his final term in 1976 and supported California’s landmark tax law, Prop. 13. 

In November 1978, he was elected as a Republican to the United States House of Representatives, and returned for six additional terms to represent the 39th Congressional District, which included much of northern Orange County.

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Extreme views

In Congress, Dannemeyer attempted to block federal funding of evolution-related exhibits at the Smithsonian Institution in 1982, and pushed for easing the separation of church and state.

In 1990 he was one of twenty representatives to vote against the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Anti-gay legacy

Dannemeyer gained national infamy with his cruel and fear-based proposals to stop the emerging AIDS epidemic in the late 1980s.

  • He advocated to ban HIV-positive immigrants.
  • Dannemeyer supported a California ballot initiative, Proposition 102, would have mandated widespread testing, tracing of sexual partners by state authorities, and a mandatory quarantine of persons with AIDS. It failed by a considerable margin.
  • In 1985, Dannemeyer advocated barring people with AIDS from working in the healthcare industry
  • Dannemeyer also promoted the false belief that people with AIDS released a spore known to cause birth defects.
  • On June 29, 1989, Dannemeyer, obsessed with the private sex lives of gay people, read a graphic description of kinky sex into the Congressional Record entitled “What Homosexuals Do.” Many of the activities Dannemeyer described also are practiced by heterosexual people.

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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