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. Subsequent meetings were held at Denny Carroll’s condo 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 name to "High Tech Gays". Two years after that meeting we decided to become an 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". In 1985 LGAES was discontinued and their members became part of HTG.
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 a one year term. Little did we know how successful the organization would become and that Denny’s condo or even a 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 that served us well over the years.
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 250 and the mailing list grew from 15 to over 900.
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 HTG 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 important 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 January 1984. As mentioned above LGAES became part of HTG later that year.
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.
The Political And Business Action Committee (PABAC) was 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 non-discrimination 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. Some of our replies were horrible.
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 Pride 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 could 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 assemblyman, 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 sexual orientation
- 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