June 17, 2009

Dear Tom,

Yes, I am the George Raya you remember who worked with Frieda Smith. I was the gay rights lobbyist who worked on the Willie Brown Consenting Adults Law (AB 489), decriminalizing sex between consenting adults. I also worked on employment discrimination, AB 633.

The following article was written by Kim Nava for the "Winter 2008 issue of Sac State Magazine".

Alumni Profile – George Raya

George Raya (Government, ’72) got the ball rolling as a founding father of gay rights during his formative years at Sacramento State.

“I came out when I was 19 years old. At that time, I was the Undeclared representative on the student senate which proved helpful in fighting to establish the first club for gay students,” Raya says. Of the group of 20 students in the club, “we were determined but we were also frightened. At our first meeting, every time we heard a knock on the door, we were afraid it was the police coming to arrest us”.

Raya and other club founders received overwhelming support, as well as some resistance. When the then College President refused to grant the club a charter, the students went to court and eventually won the battle to establish the club.

With their court battle won, the Society for Homosexual Freedom found its place on the campus. “We found a lot of acceptance from the students at the University,” Raya says. “Through the club, we worked to demystify homosexuality. Our message was we were the same as everyone else.”

After his graduation in 1972, Raya went on to UC Berkeley to study law. He ultimately dropped out, but not before he had made some critical ties to gay activists in the Bay Area. He headed back to Sacramento and in December 1974 became the first full-time gay rights legislative advocate in Sacramento.

Raya’s first legislative victory was AB 489, the Willie Brown Consenting Adult Bill in 1975. The reform legalized sex between consenting adults and opened the door to gay rights legislation. Of the bill, Raya says, “We wanted to advance gay rights when there were none.” Other states followed California’s lead.

The passage of the bill was the conduit that led to a historic meeting at the White House in 1977. For the first time in history a president allowed a formal discussion of gay rights in the White House. Raya was one of 14 activists from across the nation chosen to participate in the meeting.

“The results of that three-hour meeting led to many important federal policy changes that altered lives of gays and lesbians for the better,” Raya says.

Currently working as a case manager for the County Department of Human Assistance, Raya enjoys his work and continues to participate in causes close to his heart. He is a board member of Sacramento’s Capital Crossroads Gay Rodeo Association and is a member of the Sacramento Parks and Recreation Commission.

“The rodeo association recently donated $8,000 to Saddle Pals, a program of the United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Sacramento,” Raya says. “I’m also working to establish a Trees Commission for the City. I’ve worked on national and state issues, and now I want to work with my neighbors on concerns closer to home.” (

I wrote this short autobiographical piece when the (California) State Assembly need info for a resolution last year (2008).

George M. Raya
Born in Sacramento April 23, 1949

1967, graduated from Sacramento Senior High School.
While at Sac High, co-founded the Mexican-American Youth Association (MAYA)
I was a keynote speaker during my Senior year at the first conference held at Sac State to encourage Mexican-American youth to go to college. The conference was organized by Mexican-American social work students.

When I graduated from high school I was awarded a scholarship by the Mexican-American Education Association.

In September 1968, I enrolled at Sacramento State College on an Educational Opportunity Program grant. I was a member of the first EOP class and the first member of my family to get a college degree.

Attendee, West Coast Gay Liberation Conference. December 26 -30, 1969 – Berkeley, CA

In, 1970, Co-founder of the Society for Homosexual Freedom, a gay student organization. I played a key role in the student government filing civil law suit in Superior Court for the right of gay students to be granted a charter for a campus organization. We won our suit against the College President, Otto Butz. (Associated Students of Sacramento State College vs. Butz), based on freedom of assembly and freedom of speech principles.

Also in 1970, became a card-carrying Member of the Young People’s Socialist League (YPSL). This campus organization was the youth arm of the Norman Thomas’ Socialist Party of America (later known as Social Democrats USA, and Chaired by civil rights leader Bayard Rustin).

June 1972, elected to the Sacramento County Democratic Central Committee.

August 1972, enrolled to Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California, at Berkeley, Fall semester 1972.
Funked out of law school in late 1973. My activities while living in Berkeley (1972-74) included:
1. Director, Boalt Hall Community Assistance Program
2. Elected to the ASUC Student Senate,
3. Co-Founder, Boalt Hall Gay Law Students Association
4. Member, City of Berkeley's Community Health Advisory Committee (Vice Chair 1973-74)
5. Shop Steward, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFL-CIO) Local #1695
6. Secured passage by the City Council of Berkeley of city ordinance that added sexual orientation to the City’s non-discrimination in employment law.
7. Co-Founder, San Francisco’s La Raza Centro Legal
8. Member, Order of the Golden Bear
9. Member, Commonwealth Club of California

In 1974, no longer enrolled at UCB, I moved to the Castro in San Francisco and became a full-time gay rights activist. I volunteered at the Whitman-Radcliffe Foundation. One of the projects of this educational and charitable foundation was the Committee for Sexual Law Reform. This group of attorneys drafted proposed state legislation to advance gay rights where there were none.

In December 1974, I became California's first full-time gay rights legislative advocate in Sacramento, representing the Society for Individual Rights (SIR), a San Francisco-based early gay rights organization. My first legislative victory was AB 489, the Willie Brown Consenting Adult Bill (1975). This legislative reform legalize sex between consenting adults. It was the anti-lynching law that opened the door to gay rights legislation. The next major piece of legislation to be introduced was non-discrimination in employment legislation, AB 633. Eventually, it won passage years later as AB 1 by Art Agnos.

A group shot of George Moscone, George Raya, Rev. James "Jim" Sandmire, Rev. Freda Smith, Gary Hess and Willie Brown.
We had just appeared before a State Senate committiee.
I think it was the Judiciary Committee regarding AB 489.
(Here's another site about Rev. Freda Smith:

During my years as a legislative advocate, I traveled widely across the state organizing political action groups, many which became Gay Democratic Clubs. I ended my career as a lobbyist in June 1976. March 1977, I was selected to represent the West Coast gay community at the National Gay Task Force-White House Conference. The first time that gay rights was discussed openly at the White House, during the presidency of Jimmy Carter. (see following three photos)

I am on the right side, next to the last.

That's me on the right in the three-piecer

George Raya, Rev. Troy Perry are standing on the White House lawn with Ray Hartman of L.A.

The Sacramento BEE wrote an article on the 30th Anniversary of the National Gay Task Force-White House Conference of 1977.
Sacramento Bee, March 27, 2007

June 1977, Attendee, the Biannual National Convention of the AFL-CIO, San Francisco. I was the Special Guest of Tom Kahn, speech writer and foreign policy advisor to AFL-CIO President George Meany. Tom Kahn was also Editor, Free Trade Union News.

August 1977, I returned to law school. I attended what is now the Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego. I graduated with a Juris Doctorate in December 1980.

1980, Member, California State Democratic Central Committee. Appointed by State Democratic Party Chair Nancy Pelosi to be Co-chair (with Joe Serna) of the State Democratic Party's Legislative Committee.

I returned to the Bay Area, living in San Francisco. Worked for the County of San Francisco.

1982, Volunteer, Gay Games I.

1983, Member, Board of Directors, Gay Games. An international sports organization founded by former Olympian Tom Waddell.

1983, Graduate, Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) Mexican-American Leadership Program.

I985, I became an AIDS activist. As a member of the Parish Council at Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in the Castro, I co-founded the Most Holy Redeemer AIDS Practical Support Group to care for persons with AIDS. And, was a graduate of the Group’s Training Program, “In Practical Care for Persons with AIDS”

Member, Latino Coalition on AIDS/SIDA (1986-90)

1986, Co-founded the Latino AIDS Project. I became an AIDS education and prevention specialist.

1986, Member, California State Assembly’s AIDS Budget Task Force

1986, Attendee, California AIDS Strategic Planning Commission meetings.

Volunteer, San Francisco General Hospital’s In-Patient Ward 5-A (1988-90)

1989, Graduate, Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality’s S.H.A.R.P. Program – Certificate of Serological Instructor/Advisor of AIDS/STD Prevention.

1989-90, the 20th Anniversary of Stonewall, Member, Board of Directors of the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Day Parade and Celebration.

1990, Chair, Budget Subcommittee of the San Francisco County Department of Public Health’s Minority AIDS Advisory Committee.

August 1990, I returned to Sacramento to assist in the care of my father who had developed fatal throat cancer.

Ever the activist, I joined the River City Democratic Club and was elected to the Executive Board (1993-94)
Chair, Legislation Committee (1993)
Chair, Political Action Committee (1994)

In 1998, I went to work for Sacramento County's Human Assistance Department as a Human Services Specialist in the CalWORKs Program (formerly known as Aid to Families with Dependent Children Program, AFDC).

Shop Steward, United Public Employees Local #1;

Co-Chair, Marshall School Neighborhood Association, and active member of the Area 1 Neighborhood Advisory Group (The NAG).

Member, City of Sacramento's Parks & Recreation Commission, where I serve as the Chair of the Urban Forest Services Committee;

Immediate Past Chair, Sacramento County Employees LGBT Caucus;

Past Secretary, and present Corporate Fundraising Chair and Public Relations Chair, Sacramento's Capital Crossroads Gay Rodeo Association (SCCGRA). Head Usher and Greeter, St. Paul's Episcopal Church.

Member, Stonewall Democratic Club of Greater Sacramento

Member, Satendar Singh Justice Coalition

For additional information, please contact:
George M. Raya

NOTE: George - Thank you for all you have done and continue to do for the community. Take care, Tom

If you would like to share any information about George Raya
or would like to be added to my "Fifty Gay Years" e-mail distribution list,
please let Melba know.

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