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Gay History – November 4, 1986: California’s Prop 64 To Quarantine People With AIDS Defeated

The AIDS Plague years is the darkest chapter in gay history. The moments of pain, horror, and degradation that gay men suffered is all but forgotten today except by those who lived through and survived.  

One of those moments happened in California in 1986 when paranoid perennial Presidential candidate and nutjob Lyndon LaRouche  at the height of the hysterical anti-gay backlash that had sprung up against the growing AIDS epidemic, founded his Prevent AIDS Now Initiative Committee (PANIC), which gathered enough signatures to place Proposition 64 onto the ballot. Prop 64, also known as the LaRouche Initiative, would have placed AIDS onto California’s list of communicable diseases under the state’s public health law, and that would have effectively forced anyone who was HIV-positive out of their jobs and schools and into a quarantine.

LaRouche and his followers claimed that such measures were required because AIDS was “worse than the Black Death” and was “more deadly to mankind than a full-scale thermonuclear war.”  “A person with AIDS running around is like a person with a machine gun shooting up a neighborhood,” LaRouche told a San Francisco radio program. He also  charged that “AIDS is the first known epidemic which could potentially wipe out the entire human race” and that his detractors were “guilty of one of the most evil cover-ups in medical history.”

Luckily despite support by Congressman William E. Dannemeyer, Prop 64 lost in a landslide, 71% to 29%. LaRouche brought it back again in 1988 as Prop 69, and lost by an even wider margin. He also made that AIDS quarantine the centerpiece of his 1988 presidential campaign, which again he lost.

In October 1986, federal and state agents raided his heavily guarded compound in Loudon County, Virginia and offices in Massachusetts. A federal grand jury indicted LaRouche with credit card fraud and obstruction of justice. In 1988, he was convicted of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, 11 counts of actual mail fraud and a count of conspiring to defraud the IRS.

LaRouche served six years in prison. At one time, he shared his cell with disgraced televangelist Jim Bakker, who recalled, “to say LaRouche was a little paranoid would be like saying that the Titanic had a little leak.”

LaRouche has never stopped his insanity and is still on the loose. He is responsible for the graphic of President Barack Obama as Hitler that began appearing at Tea Party and Town Hall meetings in 2009, and he helped to popularize the fiction that Obama’s health care reform included so-called “death panels.” with Sarah Palin and would amount to the same thing as the Nazis‘ Action T4 euthanasia program, and urged Americans to “quickly and suddenly change the behavior of this president … for no lesser reason than that your sister might not end up in somebody’s gas oven.”

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Will Kohler

Will Kohler is a noted LGBT historian, journalist and owner of Back2Stonewall.com. A longtime gay activist, Will fought on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic with ACT-UP and continues fighting today for LGBT acceptance and full equality. Will’s work has been referenced in notable media venues as MSNBC and BBC News, The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, Hollywood Reporter, and Raw Story,

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1 thought on “Gay History – November 4, 1986: California’s Prop 64 To Quarantine People With AIDS Defeated”

  1. These nut-jobs have been gravitating toward the republican party for years. Why would ANYONE in their right mind associate themselves with such a long history of bigotry, hate, anti-science, illogic and outright craziness? I’m sorry, but if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and waddles along with other ducks, I want nothing to do with it. (My apologies to actual ducks everywhere for using their likeness in this analogy).

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