High Tech Gays was primarily a social LGBT group but if you Google "High Tech Gays" most of the results you
see refer to a federal class action suit called High Tech Gays vs
DISCO. That suit challenged the policy of the Defense Industrial
Security Clearance Organization (DISCO), a unit of the U.S. Department
of Defense, that routinely denied security clearances to applicants who
were known or thought to be homosexual. "Little did we know when
twelve of us met in Denny's house in March of 1983 to write the By-laws
and create HTG, how fast the tremendous growth of High Tech Gays would
be in the next two and a half years" - Rick Rudy March 1983.
The beginning was January 1983: In San
Jose, California resident, Ben Sbarbaro, sponsored a south
bay meeting of the San Francisco based group called LGAES (Lesbian and
Gay Associated Engineers and Scientists). That meeting was held at the
old San Jose Billy DeFrank LGBT Community Center located on Keyes
Street in San Jose. Ten
people were in attendance including Ben Sbarbaro ,
Charles Sabatini, Rick Rudy, Eric Lipanovich, Patrick Mello and Denny
Carroll along with the president of San Francisco LGAES, Ed
Sebesta. Ed wanted us to form a south bay chapter of LGAES.
At subsequent meetings held at Denny Carroll’s condo at Carnot Drive in
San Jose. After a couple
of meetings, and with 15 in attendance, on May 15, 1983, a South Bay chapter was created
called "The Santa Clara Valley Chapter of Lesbian & Gay Associated
Engineers and Scientist". At a later meeting we changed the chapter
to "High Tech Gays". Two years after that meeting we decided to become
independent organization called High Tech Gays. High Tech Gays, was shortened to HTG on our return addresses envelopes, etc., since, in those days, many people's jobs,
especially those requiring a government security clearance, would be in
jeoprady, if they were "outed".
HTG focused on the unique needs of gays in the high tech
businesses which are heavily concentrated in the Santa Clara Valley.
The newly adopted bylaws included lobbying, political action, public
education, members' education, employment related services, and social
mingling among Lesbians and gay men. Rick Rudy was elected the first
President of HTG, Denny Carroll Secretary, and Eric Lipanovich
Treasurer for one year terms. Little did we know how successful the
organization would be and that Denny’s condo and any member's large house
would soon be too small to hold monthly meetings.
Some memories from that initial meeting:
Rick and Eric suggested
that Denny become president but he insisted that he would be better
qualified as secretary, since that was the function he had been
performing anyway - calling people, building the database, setting up
the meeting locations, etc. Everyone agreed that Rick was his best on
“center stage” so Rick would become the perfect spokesperson for the
organization. How true that proved to be! Eric, as treasurer, set
up the financial processes of the newly formed organization.
In all those early meetings we all developed all of the processes that became a
successful formula to grow the organization from a few in attendance at
the monthly meetings to as many as 175 and the mailing list grew from 15 to
There would be a monthly newsletter. The newly adopted bylaws included
lobbying, political action, public education, members' education,
employment related services, and social mingling among Lesbians and gay
men. To attract new members and make HTG’s existence more generally
known we would have booths at the San Jose Gay Freedom Day Rally and
San Francisco Gay Pride.
HTG got a big boost from the San Jose rally in 1983 as 80 people signed the
mailing list and some of those even became members on the spot.
In October, 1983 IITG hosted its first guest speakers at a meeting,
they were: Larry Ghilzai and his attorney Liz Shiveil, who were there
to discuss a sexual orientation discrimination lawsuit filed against
SEEQ, a local high tech employer.
By year's end the HTG membership had tripled and 45 people attended
the 1983 Christmas meeting. The early months of 1984 were very
politically for HTG. First of all, there was an extensive effort made
by HTG to urge the passage and signing of AB1 (the gay rights
employment bill veoted by Gov Deukmejian). Of course the signing of
AB1 never happened but as an organization, HTG made a strong effort to
urge the governor’s signature.
High Tech Gays was growing rapidly and
it was generally felt that the time had come to let HTG be an
independent organization and discontinue its affiliation with LGAES.
This took a 2/3 majority vote of HTG paid members to amend the bylaws.
In March 1984, HTG became a supporting member of NOGLSTP, National
Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical professionals.
In June 1984, the new HTG logo created by Brad was unveiled. Our banner
and T-shirts were prominent and drew much media attention at the San
Jose Gay Pride Rally and San Francisco Parade. HTG became coplaintiffs
in a suit against the Defense Investigative Security Clearance
Organization (DISCO) for taking an excessive amount of time to grant
security clearances to gays and lesbians.
By the end of 1984, the paid membership was approaching 200 and more
than 100 people were attending the monthly pot luck/business meetings.
Political And Business Action Committee (PABAC) got started in
early 1985 by sending a letter to many employers in high tech
based in the valley. The focus of the letter was on
against gays in the workplace. Subsequent mailings occurred throughout
the year to keep the attention of the employers and to try to generate
as much feedback as possible.
High Tech Gays grew even more rapidly in 1985 and added over 100
new members thanks to good response at the booths at the San Jose Gay
Rally, and the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade in 1985. The
biggest problem seemed to be finding places big enough to
hold the meetings. It certainly was fun having a meeting at a different
location each month never really knowing how many people would show up
and if we would all fit.
Another big accomplishment in 1985 was the formation of the Women's Caucus of HTG. A volunteer,
Elizabeth, dedicated a lot of time and effort into
building the Women's Caucus.
Rick Rudy was elected to the Board of the National Gay and Lesbian Task
Force. This was a great opportunity for Rick and it also provided some
positive results for HTG, such as increased awareness both locally and
nationally as we had a sudden increase in contacts with the media
requesting interviews, information, etc.
High Tech Gays received an extensive amount of publicity from the
lawsuit against DISCO regarding security clearances. Because gay rights
is the issue involved, the results of the suit has some impact on all
of us. At one of our monthly meetings we passed the hat around the room
and managed to collect nearly $600 to put into a legal defense fund.
HTG then contributed an additional $300 as a group.
The following is a summary of HTG activities over the years:
Some of the guest speakers:
- The Hon. Donna Hitchens, Superior Court Judge
- Linda Speraw, producer of the video "The Last Laugh"
- Matthew Coles, American Civil Liberties Union
- David Burnnel – Editor in Chief of PC World, Mac World
- Hank Plante, TV news anchor at KPIX
- San Jose Mayoral Candidates
- John Caldwell, Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation
- Robert Stipicevich, Fremont School Board
- Pam Walton, producer of the video "Out in Suburbia" and "Gay Youth"
- Cleve Jones, NAMES Project
- Tom Nolan, San Mateo County Supervisor
- John Laird, California Secretary for Natural Resources, state congressman, first openly Gay mayor of Santa Cruz
- State assemlyman John Vasconcellos
Gay Rights Activism:
- Supported effort to pass AB 101, the Gay Rights Bill, in California
- Participated in the national March on Washington in 1987 & 1993
- Participate yearly in both the San Jose and San Francisco Pride Celebrations
- Host benefits for local AIDS support groups
- Support the efforts of BAYMEC and NGLTF through cooperative membership
- Annually bestow the Richard P. Rudy Community Service Award to a dedicated member of the gay and lesbian community
- Ongoing efforts by the Political and Business Action Committee
(PABAC) to persuade companies to change their Equal
Employment . Opportunity policy to include
- Provide information to lesbians and gays attempting to obtain a Government Security Clearance
Industrial Security Clearances:
Supported lesbians and gays in their fight for Security Clearances in civilian employment:
* High Tech Gays v. Defense Investigative Security Clearance Office,
which began in 1984 and first culminated in a very positive ruling by
US District Court in August 1987 supporting the rights of gays and
lesbians to be treated the same as heterosexuals in the security
clearance process. The ruling was unfortunately overturned by the 9th
Circuit Court of Appeals in February of 1990.
* Jean Kovalich v. Defense Investigative Service, in which Kovalich was
demoted for being a lesbian. The government finally backed down and
made a very positive out-of-court settlement.
* Robert Weston v. Lockheed, in which a defense contractor, on advice
from the federal government, would not even process an application for
clearance because Weston is gay.
- An evening at La Cage Revue
- Beach Blanket Babylon
- Ballet Trocadero de Monte Carlo
- Performances by San Jose Civic Light Opera, TheatreWorks, San Jose/Cleveland Ballet, Palo Alto Players and many others
- Big Lil's Cabaret Melodrama & Pizza Party
- Lily Tomlin's "Search for Intelligent Signs of Life"
- San Francisco stairway hikes
- Alpine and cross country ski trips
- Whitewater rafting
- Bike trips
- Wine country touring
- Horseback riding
- Bay sailing
- Water skiing
- Beach parties
- AIDS Bike-A-Thon fundraiser
- Castro Street Fair
- Dinner nights
- Games nights
- Halloween party
- Robert Mapplethorpe Exhibit
- Gay Games
- Movie nights
- Stanford Linear Accelerator
- NASA Ames Research Center
- Robert Mapplethorpe Exhibit