When we talk about advances in civil and gay rights, we often talk in terms of famous firsts: Los Angeles’ first Black Mayor Tom Bradley or the state’s first openly gay elected official, San Francisco’s Harvey Milk. Yet, the struggles of average folk lay the groundwork for these larger victories and it is their stories that rarely get told. In 1975, one obscure Southern California gay man fought the good fight and in doing so achieved a triumph that would bring new rights and job opportunities for homosexual men and women across the U.S.
Forty years ago, Rancho Palos Verdes resident and computer defense systems analyst Otis Francis Tabler challenged both the federal government’s security clearance system and California state law banning sodomy and “perversion” winning what observers described as an unprecedented victory from the Department of Defense when he became the first openly gay man to receive a secret security clearance from the Industrial Security Clearance Review Office. In a year in which the Supreme Court declared marriage equality the law of the land, Tabler’s story deserves to be told.