PRIDE Center’s virtual event showcases Sac State LGBTQ+ history, including landmark court case


Photo courtesy of the PRIDE Center.

The PRIDE Center and Special Collections and University Archives hosted Queer Welcome via Zoom Friday to showcase student activism at Sac State.

Isabelle Juarez

Sacramento State’s PRIDE Center in collaboration with Special Collections and University Archives hosted a “Queer Welcome” as part of the Weeks of Welcome via Zoom Friday. 

The event consisted of a presentation by SCUA about LGBTQ+ student activism at Sac State throughout the years, and performances by local group Queer Voices. 

The event began with introductions and welcomes to over 90 participants from PRIDE Center Coordinator Melissa Muganzo Murphy, faculty and Sac State President Robert Nelsen. 

The event then moved to a presentation about student activism at Sac State. The presentation featured not only the history of the LGBTQ+ movement, but also activism for the Civil Rights Movement and the establishment of women’s studies.

The Society for Homosexual Freedom was recognized as an official student organization in 1971. James Fox, head of SCUA, presented the struggles it took to form the organization.

The club first applied for recognition in 1970 and was denied by then university president Otto Butz, citing the risk they might “attract homosexuals to the campus, and to expose minors to homosexual advocacy and practices.”

The PRIDE Center showed attendees this 1970 letter from then university president Otto Butz to Associated Students of Sacramento State College denying recognition of Society for Homosexual Freedom as a student organization. (Photo courtesy of Special Collections & University Archives)

In response, the Associated Students of Sacramento State College sued Butz in 1971, Fox said. He said the judge overseeing the case ruled in favor of SHF due to the First Amendment guarantee of free speech.

“The students won a landmark decision to influence other universities,” Fox said. “It all started here at Sac State.”

Around the same period, the women’s studies program was established and had classes at Sac State, Fox said. One of the first classes offered in this program was “The Lesbian and Society” in the fall semester of 1972.

“The SHF became a predominantly male organization, so women found their voice in women’s studies,” Fox said. “Lesbians on our campus met there to speak about issues important to them.”

One of the first classes offered in women’s studies, The Lesbian and Society, was added in fall 1972. (Photo courtesy of Special Collections and University Archives)

At the conclusion of the presentation, PRIDE Center student assistants led breakout room discussions with attendees on the information that was presented.

Once all attendants were back in the main room, local group Queer Voices performed an original song live about gender identity and two spoken word pieces about the ignorance the LGBTQ+ community faces. Queer Voices is a performance group of LGBTQ+ adults and youth housed by the Sacramento LGBT Community Center, Murphy said.

Murphy made final remarks about the importance of student activism and fighting for equality.

“Long before the PRIDE Center, queer and trans students were advocating for social justice and equity on behalf of all of you,” Murphy said.