Thursday, September 20, 2012

Andrew Exler & Gay Straight Alliance (GSA)

Andrew Exler from Blog

Andrew Exler / Crusader vs. Disneyland

In the 1980's, Disneyland policy over gay rights was a bit more restrictive than you'd find it today.  Actually many locations in Anaheim, Orange County, California and the Nation were a bit more restrictive that you'd find today.  Today's political scene has many things as their key issues and gay rights seems to still be the topic of discussion.

Loara High School had a former student that is known today as "Crusader" but during his High School years went by Andrew Exler. If you were to sign on to Andrew Exler's personal Google site you'd read:

"I am the 51-year-old activist formerly known as Andrew Exler who overturned Disneyland's ban on same-sex dancing in the 1980s. I reside in Palm Springs, California."

And then be directed on how to discover more details about any of the issues he has been involved with, leading you to links that will take you to news articles, commentary, and letters to the editor about most of the issues I have personally been involved with.

"Where are they now" date unknown
check out
So how did Loara High School and Andrew Exler make history?  In doing research and looking at news articles from the Times and other local sites, I felt that his own words were the best testimony of the events.  I hope he doesn't mind me taking right from his site, but I mean no harm by him, just to enlighten our Loara alumni a little bit of info in regards to this "crusader."

"On September 13, 1980 ("Date Night"), I was disco dancing on the Tomorrowland Terrace dance floor with another teenage male (Shawn Elliott). Five security officers physically brought us to a halt, processed us at the security office and escorted us from the park. It wasn't until many years later that I learned the security office where we were detained is now referred to as the "Disneyland Jail."

 In 1984, a conservative Orange County jury found that Disneyland, under California law, violated our rights based on sex or sexual orientation. It was a landmark decision that made international news, and it was one of the first times a plaintiff won any type of case against the powerful Walt Disney Company, let alone one this controversial.

No monetary damages were sought, but the way Disneyland now treats their gay guests and cast members has hopefully changed for the better.

Immediately after the verdict, a Disneyland attorney insisted the jury verdict only applied to Shawn and I, and he vowed that Disneyland would "shut down the dance floors" before permitting other same-sex couples to dance together.

Although the park immediately filed an appeal, they dropped it after my attorney (Ronald Talmo) won a landmark California Supreme Court case where the court held that business establishments violated state civil rights laws by offering 'Ladies Day' or 'Ladies Night' promotions (Koire v. Metro Car Wash). Disney knew, based on the ruling in Koire, that if Exler v. Disneyland made its way to the California Supreme Court, Disney would have probably lost!

About a year after our victory, in 1985, The Happiest Place on Earth quietly dropped the policy altogether, claiming they couldn't tell "who was dancing with whom." They denied that the Exler v. Disneyland victory had anything to do with their decision. Like, duh."

Today Disneyland hosts Gay Days at the park.

Loara's GSA

Jump to the year 2009 and Loara High School establishes its very own Gay Straight Alliance (GSA).  Since the 80's, Loara itself has been through many changes.  I started student teaching in 1987 and found Loara to be a different place than I left in 1982 upon my graduation.  It seemed to be a little more accepting and a little more progressive but I know that it would be a long time til we got to the point where something like a GSA would be socially accepted.  I remember hearing the announcements on my first day, announcing there would be a Gate Club meeting at lunch, and the student reading didn't enunciation very well and I thought I heard Gay Club.  I was thinking, "I'd only been gone for 5 years, what other changes have happened at Loara?"

During those years leading up to a GSA we had several "out" students, ranging from all different people within the LGBTQ ( Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered and Questioning) community. I was well aware of the LGBTQ students, but the other students didn't really notice. They kept to themselves and seemed to be okay with who they were on the inside, yet still not comfortable enough to share on the outside. It wasn't until these courageously proud gay students found a voice that it became more of a scene, but the nice thing about it was those students used a voice of reason and passion. I'm certain there were many still in the closet feeling the pressure to stay quiet, but these open ones fought the good fight for all to follow. Sure they were teased by some, but our faculty and staff did a good job in allowing that voice to be heard, well at least I felt they did.  I don't want to write their names down because I haven't asked their permission to be in this blog.  As Mr. Exler is in the news I felt it okay to share his story.

One point I want to make perfectly clear before I get emails talking about the political scene today when it comes to LGBTQ.  Were talking kids here, students.  I'm not taking a stance on gay marriage, gays in the military or anything of the sort (even though if you ask me I would). As a high school teacher I am not to show any political leanings, I'm here to teach and to love my students. I am just pointing out what Mr. Exler had to do to gain acceptance as a human just to dance.  And as Loara High School is a public school, we as educators need to teach acceptance of all human being regardless of speech, age, religion, race or gender.  The world can decide the rest, the school chooses love.

These students following Mr. Exler were "crusaders" too, they changed minds and hearts along the way which made creating the Gay Straight Alliance an acceptable thing.  I recall the worry about making themselves public including the adviser, but once that club was solidified as part of our campus culture, their gender identity no longer became a topic of discussion.  It's that old motto to kill a stereotype make it part of the norm, and these pioneers did just that.  Our GSA has become one of the more popular clubs on campus, its name is its service they are an alliance for Gays and Straights alike and they don't just cater to one group over another.  They are raising awareness of who they are and where they'd like to fit into the Loara landscape.

Article on Andrew Exler: (you can find many others, just Google his name)

I hope Erica Davies doesn't mind but I found this article from that help explained Andrew Exler's case.  I know it says all rights reserved, but I'm not selling anything, just enlightening.

Dancing at Disneyland: Gays in the Fast Lane

Copyright (c) by Erica Davies, 2008. All rights reserved.

In 1980, 19 year-old Loara High School graduate Andrew Exler of Palm Springs sued Disneyland in 1980 for encroachment of his civil rights because of discrimination based on sexual orientation. Exler and his male date, Shawn Elliot, were escorted off the premises after security guards intervened on their "homosexual fast-dancing" and told them, "This is a family park. We do not put up with alternative lifestyles here."[1] The legal matter was dragged out in court for four years until May of 1984 when a Superior Court judge ruled that Exler's civil rights were impinged upon by the guards. Since the court verdict was in favor of the plaintiff, Disneyland consequently was ordered to abolish its ban on same-sex dancing and pay Exler's legal costs – which amounted to $25,000.[2] Yet, following the ruling, Disneyland's attorneys insisted it applied only to Exler and Elliot; others who engaged in "homosexual touching" thereafter at the theme park were not exempt from expulsion.

In February of 1988, three UCLA students filed a lawsuit against Disneyland citing another civil rights violation for similar discriminatory acts regarding sexual orientation. Christopher Drake, Eric Hubert, and Jeffrey Stabile, Jr. claimed their rights to slow-dance with each other at the amusement park was infringed upon in late 1987 by security guards who stated that "touch dancing is reserved for heterosexual couples only." The lawsuit was dropped by the plaintiffs shortly after being filed and before the case was submitted to the Superior Court in Orange County because of Disneyland's motion to reassert its non-discriminatory written policy for the public media.[3] In disbelief of this almost identical incident, Exler was appalled by the recurring discrimination and Disneyland's failure to preach tolerance among its staff and visitors. "I'm surprised that it took nearly 10 years for the Happiest Place on Earth to admit that they must operate under the civil rights laws just like any other business."[4].

Exler is currently a civil rights activist in Southern California who legally changed his name to "Crusader" in 1995. He operates an established controversial column online called "Crusader's Corner". The website features an array of civil rights lawsuits and social change cast in a humorous light and his writings chronicle witty remarks about politics, consumer rights, celebrities, and sex.[5]


  1.  Griffin, Sean. Tinker Belles and Evil Queens: The Walt Disney Company from the Inside Out. Pg. 126.
  2.  Heuberger, Frank W. and Kellner, Hansfried. Hidden Technocrats: The New Class and New Capitalism. Pg. 171.
  3.  Krupat, Kitty and McCreery, Patrick. Out at Work: Building a Gay-Labor Alliance. Pg. 220.
  4.  Exler, Andrew. "The Civil Rights Webring: Crusader's Corner.” Accessed November 20th, 2007.
  5.  Exler, Andrew. "The Civil Rights Webring: Crusader's Corner.” Accessed November 20th, 2007.


  1. Wow, what an honour; thanks so much!

    Just a bit of a clarification that Disney doesn't "host" the unofficial gay days at Disneyland and Disney World. Those are privately organized events and Disney doesn't block them from happening. I know it is a matter of semantics, but still an important point to make.

    1. i was just about to comment that.

  2. This article overlooks who was the judge in Crusader's trial. It was Judge James R. Ross, a great grandson of America's iconic outlaw Jesse James. More about the background of this trial, its aftermath, and what happened to Judge Ross as a result will appear soon in an authorized historical biography of the Jesse James family, titled "Jesse James Soul Liberty, Behind the Family Wall of Stigma & Silence by Eric F. James. Available in late 2012.

  3. Andrew, thank you very much for comment and more importantly to me even reading my blog. I graduated in 1982 and i recall your story from then, but in writing this blog I rediscovered the story and felt it had to be revisited. Thank you for updating or correcting my false information too ... in the research i found it wasn't clear but it's good to know it isn't official. I worked for Disneyland in 1987 and never felt that kind of prejudice was going on, I would give you credit for that feeling not to mention more than 50% of the people I worked with there were gay. I wish you well with your "crusade" and never worry about semantics, it usually is the beginning of the misunderstanding of anything, and I am not a fan of assumptions and misunderstandings because of lack of clarity.

    Eric, not sure who you are in the scheme of things, a Loara graduate or someone trying to sell books but thanks for the side story, truly interesting.

    1. Paul: Eric is related to the late Orange County Superior Court judge (James Ross) who held court during my 1984 Disneyland trial. Both are descendants of the late gangster Jesse James. When Judge Ross passed away, Eric and I became Internet pals.

      FYI, I tried posting this last night from my iPad (iOS 6, 3rd Gen), but was refused; guess certain things don't work well on the iPad; go figure.