John Briggs (politician)

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John Briggs
California State Senator, 35th District
In office
Preceded byJames Edward Whetmore
Succeeded byJohn F. Seymour
California State Assemblyman, 69th District
In office
Preceded byKenneth Cory
Succeeded byWilliam E. Dannemeyer
California State Assemblyman, 35th District
In office
Preceded byGordon W. Duffy
Succeeded byGary K. Hart
Personal details
Born (1930-03-08) March 8, 1930 (age 89)
Mitchell, South Dakota
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Carmen Nicasio Briggs
ProfessionPolitician, United States Air Force Pilot

John V. Briggs (born March 8, 1930) is a retired California state politician who served in the California State Assembly and the California State Senate. He is perhaps best known for sponsoring Proposition 6 in 1978, also known as the Briggs Initiative,[1] a failed measure which attempted to remove all gay or lesbian school employees or their supporters from their jobs.

Personal life[edit]

Briggs was born in Mitchell, South Dakota in 1930,[2] and moved to southern California in 1935, where he was raised by his single mother.[3] He attended high school and college in southern California and later served in the United States Air Force (1947–51), seeing action in the Korean Theater. After his stint in the Air Force, Briggs served in the United States Naval Reserve. Near the end of his military service, Briggs met his future wife, Carmen Nicasio, at a USO dance. Together, they had three children and currently have eight grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

After his military service, Briggs started a successful insurance brokerage. In June 1973 (during his fourth term as Assemblyman), Briggs was selected by his Alma Mater, California State University, Long Beach, as Outstanding Alumnus.

Throughout the years, Briggs has remained active in a variety of community groups including the Jaycees, the Rotary Club, and the Boys and Girls Club.

Political career[edit]

Briggs' political career began as an outgrowth of his participation in the Jaycees. He served as a local Jaycee president and California State Director as well as President of the Senior Chamber of Commerce. He also served as President of the Walter Knott Young Republican Club. In 1962 and 1964, Briggs ran unsuccessfully as the Republican nominee for the California State Assembly in the 69th District (which includes parts of Orange County). He was finally elected two years later in the 35th District (which included northern Orange County and neighboring parts of San Bernardino County). Re-elected three times in this district, Briggs went on to successfully compete in the 69th District in the 1974 election.

In 1976, Briggs ran for, and was elected a member of the California State Senate, representing the 35th District, comprising most of Orange County. He unsuccessfully sought the 1978 Republican nomination for governor. Re-elected in 1978 and 1980, Briggs resigned from the Senate at the end of December, 1981.

While in office, Briggs concentrated much of his attention on insurance reform, a wider application of the death penalty, nuclear energy development, and construction regulation. He was member of the Western Interstate Nuclear Board from 1971 to 1972. In the Assembly, he chaired the Agriculture and the Atomic Development Committees; and while in the Senate chaired the Governmental Efficiency and Governmental Investigations and Reports Committees.[4]

Briggs was a leader in several legislative initiatives in California, including:

  • Proposition 6 (1978): (Failed) Would have required the firing of any teacher who was found to be "advocating, imposing, encouraging or promoting" homosexual activity;[5]
  • Proposition 13: Restricted property tax to 1% of the full cash value of the property;
  • Proposition 7: Expanded the application of the death penalty and life imprisonment without parole;
  • California Indoor Safe Air Act:[4] Banned smoking in public buildings.

Proposition 6[edit]

Briggs sponsored the 1978 initiative known as Proposition 6 or the Briggs Initiative that would have prevented gays or those who supported gay rights from working in public schools. Of gay teachers, he said, "Most of them are in the closet, and frankly, that's where I think they should remain."[6]

Former California governor Ronald Reagan spoke out publicly against the Briggs Initiative, stating that "there are enough laws that protect children". In a November 1, 1978, editorial in the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, Reagan wrote, "Whatever else it is, homosexuality is not a contagious disease like measles. Prevailing scientific opinion is that an individual's sexuality is determined at a very early age and that a child's teachers do not really influence this."[7] California Governor Jerry Brown denounced Proposition 6, as did U.S. President Jimmy Carter.[8] The Log Cabin Republicans, a national organization of gay Republicans, subsequently credited Proposition 6 as being the catalyst leading to its formation. Opposition by leading politicians combined with grassroots lobbying led to the defeat of Proposition 6 by 58.4% to 41.6%.

Post-political life[edit]

Following his retirement from politics, Briggs operated a successful political and business consulting firm for fifteen years. He was a registered California lobbyist from 1983 to 1996. In 2000, he moved to the Lake Tahoe area where he became a successful real estate investor.[citation needed]

Briggs and his wife moved to Sun City Anthem in 2003, an age-restricted community in Nevada where he has run for the community's board of directors.[9] In a campaign statement in 2008 published on the resident created blog, The Anthem Voice, Briggs denied statements made about him in various blogs, and said that he was not an "intolerant person." He stated that he continued to regard singer Anita Bryant (a vocal opponent of gay rights measures in the late 1970s) as "a hero," but he also said that, "with the passage of over thirty years, America has changed — including me." He said that, when he worked with Bryant, he and his wife "not only stood for our principles, but fought for principles as we then saw them." But he also said that the 1970s and 1980s were "a much different America," in which "President Reagan and the country shamefully neglected the AIDS epidemic causing the deaths of thousands." He said that, "like President Reagan, and most of the country, I think differently now, and have put aside the '70s and '80s, and respectfully request others do as well and move on to the civil side of life." He also stated that he was, despite his differences with them, friendly with Harvey Milk and gay activist Randy Shilts.[10]


  1. ^ Stockton-San Joaquin County Public Library. "Ballot Propositions June 1978-June 1998". Stockton-San Joaquin County Public Library. Retrieved 2008-12-07.
  2. ^ JoinCalifornia - John V. Briggs
  3. ^ "Biography". California. 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-23.
  4. ^ a b "Inventory of the John V. Briggs Papers, 1967-1976". California. 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-23.
  5. ^ Rimmerman, Craig (November 2001). "From Identity to Politics: The Lesbian and Gay Movements in the United States". Temple University Press. Retrieved 2008-12-07.
  6. ^ Shilts, Randy (1982). The Mayor of Castro Street: the life and times of Harvey Milk. St. Martin's Press. p. 229. ISBN 0-312-01900-9 (pbk.).
  7. ^ Reagan, Ronald (1978-11-01). "Editorial: Two Ill-advised California Trends". Los Angeles Herald-Examiner. p. A19.
  8. ^ LeVay, Simon; Nonas, Elisabeth (1997). "City of Friends: A Portrait of the Gay and Lesbian Community in America". MIT Press. Retrieved 2008-12-08.
  9. ^ Flyer for John Briggs's Campaign for the Sun City Anthem Board of Directors. Retrieved 10-01-2012.
  10. ^
California Assembly
Preceded by
Gordon W. Duffy
California State Assemblyman, 35th District
Succeeded by
Gary K. Hart
Preceded by
Kenneth Cory
California State Assemblyman, 69th District
Succeeded by
William E. Dannemeyer
California Senate
Preceded by
James Edward Whetmore
California State Senator, 35th District
Succeeded by
John F. Seymour