California pardons pro-Israel gay civil rights leader Bayard Rustin

California pardons pro-Israel gay civil rights leader Bayard Rustin

The governor of California posthumously pardoned the African-American civil rights leader and pro-Israel activist Bayard Rustin on Wednesday. Rustin was convicted under anti-gay laws in 1953.The gay trade unionist, who died in 1987 at age 75, played an important role in aiding Ethiopian and Russia Jews in emigrating to Israel.Rustin was one of the principal architects of the Civil Rights movement and a close adviser to Dr. Martin Luther King. He marched for gay rights in New York in the 1980s, and in an essay titled “From Montgomery to Stonewall” he wrote that the treatment of the gay community had become the “barometer of where one is on human rights questions.”Rustin said that, “Since Israel is a democratic state surrounded by essentially undemocratic states which have sworn her destruction, those interested in democracy everywhere must support Israel’s existence.” California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said that Rustin was convicted under a state “lewd vagrancy” law that frequently targeted gay men. Newsom’s pardon overturns Rustin’s 1953 criminal conviction.  The civil rights leader was imprisoned for 50 days in Los Angeles County. The State of California registered him as a sex-offender for having sex in a parked automobile.Newsom announced that, “In California and across the country, many laws have been used as legal tools of oppression, and to stigmatize and punish LGBTQ people and communities, and warn others what harm could await them for living authentically,” adding: “I thank those who advocated for Bayard Rustin’s pardon, and I want to encourage others in similar situations to seek a pardon to right this egregious wrong.”Rustin was a tireless supporter of Israel, launching the Black Americans to Support Israel Committee and working to free Soviet Jews and help Ethiopian Jews immigrate to Israel.According to a 2018 JNS article, “Rustin was vociferous in criticizing those black leaders who showed sympathy for the PLO.” He termed the PLO “an organization committed to racism, terrorism and authoritarianism.”He noted in a Commentary magazine article that Middle Eastern regimes denigrated the Jewish state in order prevent efforts to “liberate their people from poverty and misery.” Rustin urged the US to sell fighter jets to Israel in 1970.

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