Californians Reject LaRouche’s Quarantine Initiative Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

California voters rejected Proposition 64, which would have allowed health officials to quarantine people with AIDS. The campaign in support of the initiative was funded by Lyndon LaRouche, a political extremist using fear of AIDS as a wedge issue.

Summary of Event

If passed, California’s Proposition 64 would have made persons with HIV-AIDS subject to quarantine by public health directors. Officially the ballot initiative was sponsored by Khushro Ghandhi, the California director for the National Democratic Policy Committee of political extremist and writer Lyndon LaRouche, and Brian Lantz, leader of the LaRouche movement in the Southwest. LaRouche formed the Prevent AIDS Now Initiative Committee (PANIC) to collect signatures for the measure in 1985 and campaign for its passage throughout 1986. [kw]Californians Reject LaRouche’s Quarantine Initiative (Nov., 1986) [kw]LaRouche’s Quarantine Initiative, Californians Reject (Nov., 1986) [kw]Quarantine Initiative, Californians Reject LaRouche’s (Nov., 1986) HIV-AIDS[HIV AIDS];and Proposition 64[Proposition 64] HIV-AIDS[HIV AIDS];and quarantine[quarantine] Health and medicine;and AIDS quarantine[AIDS quarantine] Proposition 64, California Prevent AIDS Now Initiative Committee [c]Laws, acts, and legal history;Nov., 1986: Californians Reject LaRouche’s Quarantine Initiative[1690] [c]HIV-AIDS;Nov., 1986: Californians Reject LaRouche’s Quarantine Initiative[1690] [c]Civil rights;Nov., 1986: Californians Reject LaRouche’s Quarantine Initiative[1690] LaRouche, Lyndon Ghandhi, Khushro Lantz, Brian Dannemeyer, William E. Feinstein, Dianne Abbitt, Diane Scott, Peter Mixner, David

A button from the No on 64 campaign.

Opponents of the measure had argued that Proposition 64 was a direct attack on gays and lesbians by LaRouche, who had railed against gays and lesbians in his political writings. In fact, one of LaRouche’s key advisers had pointed out that the measure was primarily meant to affect “nonheterosexuals” and those persons described as belonging to “classic risk groups,” which presumably meant homosexuals, intravenous drug users, and racial and ethnic minorities.

Independent analysis of the measure suggested that the proposal would declare AIDS to be an infectious, contagious, and communicable disease and that the condition of being a carrier of the human T-cell leukemia/lymphotrophic virus type III Human T-cell leukemia/lymphotrophic virus type III[Human T cell leukemia lymphotrophic virus type 03] (HTLV-III) was an infectious, contagious, and communicable condition. This classification would require that both be placed on the list of reportable diseases and conditions maintained by the director of California’s health services department. Subsequently, both would be subject to quarantine and isolation statutes and regulations. In addition, persons infected with a disease-causing organism could be excluded from schools and from food-handling jobs. These measures could be applied to persons merely suspected of having the infection or the disease.

If broadly interpreted, the measure could have cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars per year. GLBT activists also had argued that the same internment camps used to harbor Japanese Americans during World War II would have been used to intern those identified as “carriers.” Given the draconian nature of the measure, public support was low, 31 to 56 percent, and changed little throughout the campaign.

Beyond LaRouche and his followers, supporters of the measure included Republican representative William E. Dannemeyer, California state senator John T. Doolittle, and several California medical doctors. Dannemeyer would go on to sponsor measures with similar provisions in legislation introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. In total, $370,000 had been spent by proponents to collect signatures and to campaign for the measure.

The measure was opposed by the No on 64— Stop LaRouche No on 64—Stop LaRouche[No on 64 Stop LaRouche] coalition of gay rights, medical, and civil rights organizations, including the California Medical Association. The No on 64 campaign was chaired by Diane Abbitt and Peter Scott. David Mixner was hired to run the campaign, and Larry Sprenger became its treasurer. High-profile politicians from both parties opposed the measure, including California’s Republican governor George Deukmejian, U.S. senators Alan Cranston (Democrat) and Pete Wilson (Republican), Senate candidate Ed Zschau (Republican), San Francisco mayor Dianne Feinstein (Democrat), and Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley (Democrat), who was also a candidate for governor. The measure was also opposed by a number of Hollywood stars, including the otherwise conservative Bob Hope. Indeed, by the middle of the summer in 1986, even the chair of the state Republican Party had come out against the measure, and only a handful of elected officials had supported it.

The 71 to 29 percent defeat of the measure came after the opposing coalition spent almost $2.8 million on its campaign, more than six times what the proponents spent. Analysis suggests that the measure’s opponents were successful because they framed the decision as a civil rights issue, but also because so many political elites, both liberal and conservative, spoke out against Proposition 64 early in the campaign.


As part of the No on 64—Stop LaRouche coalition, the Lobby for Individual Freedom and Equality LIFE Lobby (LIFE Lobby) was created in 1986. Originally called the LIFE AIDS Lobby, the group was spawned by the coalition that had formed No on 64, including the Municipal Elections Committee of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center. Founders of the group included Diane Himes, John Duran, and David Kessler.

Even though the measure failed, Proposition 64 paved the way for three additional HIV-AIDS-related ballot initiatives in California. The first, Proposition 69, Proposition 69, California which appeared on the June, 1988, ballot, was also sponsored by followers of LaRouche. The measure, among other things, would have made it possible for public health directors to quarantine persons with HIV-AIDS. The list of supporters and opponents was virtually the same as for Proposition 64. Opponents spent only $700,000 to defeat the measure by a 68 to 32 percent margin.

The second measure, Proposition 96, Proposition 96, California allowed for testing persons arrested for sex crimes and persons who might have exposed emergency workers to HIV. The test results would remain confidential. Framed largely as a law-and-order rather than an AIDS or gay rights issue, the measure was sponsored and financed by Los Angeles County sheriff Sherman Block and appeared on the November, 1988, ballot. Supporters of the previous AIDS measures were not publicly active in this campaign. With little general opposition, the measure passed with 62 percent in favor and 38 percent against.

Many suggest Proposition 96 passed because it was framed as a law-and-order measure and because GLBT activists had focused their attention on another AIDS measure on the same ballot. This measure, Proposition 102, Proposition 102, California was sponsored by Representative Dannemeyer and tax crusader Paul Gann through their organization, the Stop AIDS Initiative Committee. Stop AIDS Initiative Committee Among other things, the measure would have required doctors to report the names of persons testing positive for HIV-AIDS to government health officials. The initiative also would have required health officials to contact the sexual partners of persons testing positive and made it a felony for an HIV-positive person to donate blood or engage in prostitution.

Proponents spent almost $700,000 in support of the measure, while opposition groups spent $800,000 on their campaign. U.S. surgeon general Surgeon general, U.S. C. Everett Koop Koop, C. Everett joined those opposed to the measure one week before the election—an action, many argued, that helped to turn public opinion against the measure. Although 72 percent of California adults supported the measure in July, 1988, support dropped to 58 percent in September, and dropped again to 51 percent in October, just before the election. The initiative was defeated 66 to 34 percent.

The failure of Proposition 102 and the defeat of Propositions 64 and 69 brought an end to attempts to place harsh restrictions on persons with HIV-AIDS. No other state has since considered similar measures at the ballot box, and California voters had made their preferences clear. However, these measures did distract GLBT activists from larger fights over AIDS funding, civil rights, and grassroots organizing. Also, some have suggested that these measures inspired related state and congressional legislation introduced between 1986 and 1990.

Although the measures did drain GLBT resources, the creation of LIFE Lobby ensured that anti-GLBT and AIDS measures in the state legislature would face significant opposition through the late 1990’s. LIFE also created a separate think tank, The Institute, which conducted policy relevant research for the political arm of the group. HIV-AIDS[HIV AIDS];and Proposition 64[Proposition 64] HIV-AIDS[HIV AIDS];and quarantine[quarantine] Health and medicine;and AIDS quarantine[AIDS quarantine]

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Adam, Barry D. The Rise of a Gay and Lesbian Movement. Rev. ed. New York: Twayne, 1995.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Berlet, Chip, and Joel Bellman. Lyndon LaRouche: Fascism Wrapped in an American Flag. Cambridge, Mass.: Political Research Associates, 1989.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Haider-Markel, Donald P. “AIDS and Gay Civil Rights: Politics and Policy at the Ballot Box.” American Review of Politics 20 (Winter, 1999): 349-375.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">King, Dennis. Lyndon LaRouche and the New American Fascism. New York: Doubleday, 1989.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Le Poire, Beth A., Carol K. Sigelman, Lee Sigelman, and Henry C. Kenski. “Who Wants to Quarantine Persons with AIDS? Patterns of Support for California’s Proposition 64.” Social Science Quarterly 71 (1990): 239-249.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Rimmerman, Craig A. From Identity to Politics: The Lesbian and Gay Movements in the United States. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2002.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Shilts, Randy. And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1987.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Vaid, Urvashi. Virtual Equality: The Mainstreaming of Gay and Lesbian Liberation. New York: Anchor Books, 1995.

1933-1945: Nazis Persecute Homosexuals

February 5, 1981: Toronto Police Raid Gay Bathhouses

June 5 and July 3, 1981: Reports of Rare Diseases Mark Beginning of AIDS Epidemic

July, 1982: Gay-Related Immunodeficiency Is Renamed AIDS

Spring, 1984: AIDS Virus Is Discovered

October 9, 1984: San Francisco Closes Gay Bathhouses and Other Businesses

July 25, 1985: Actor Hudson Announces He Has AIDS

September, 1986: AZT Treats People with AIDS

March, 1987: Radical AIDS Activist Group ACT UP Is Founded

June 27, 1988: Report of the Presidential AIDS Commission

December 1, 1988: First World AIDS Day

June 25, 1993: Clinton Appoints First AIDS Czar

Categories: History