California Governor Gavin Newsom has issued the state’s first pardon to a registrant. The pardon was issued to Bayard Rustin, a colleague of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on February 4. Rustin was convicted of a sex offense and required to register as a sex offender in Los Angeles in 1953 because he participated in a consensual adult sex act with another man.
“We celebrate the courage and wisdom of Governor Newsom in his decision to issue a pardon to Bayard Rustin,” stated ACSOL Executive Director Janice Bellucci. “This is the first time a California Governor has issued a pardon to a person convicted of a sex offense.”
The issuance of Rustin’s pardon followed requests made to the Governor by both the California Legislative Black and LGBTQ Caucuses.
Rustin is credited as a key strategist and organizer behind the 1963 March on Washington, D.C. He is also credited with helping Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. organize the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Rustin visited California several times during his civil rights career, including trips to Japanese Americans imprisoned in the Manzanar interment camp.
President Barack Obama honored Rustin in 2013 by posthumously awarding him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest award in the United States. That award described Rustin as “an unyielding activist for civil rights, dignity and equality for all.”
Following his issuance of Rustin’s pardon, Governor Newsom announced that his office would launch a new clemency initiative focused on pardoning others who were prosecuted in the state of California because they were gay.
“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,” stated Governor Newsom in a press release issued on February 5. According to that press release, the new clemency initiative will work to identify eligible pardon candidates, and diligently process applications with the express goal of pardoning eligible individuals. Additional information regarding that initiative is available at www.gov.ca.gov/clemency