Longtime gay rights attorney Lee Walker dies
April 16 2004 12:00 AM ET
Leroy "Lee" S. Walker, an openly gay lawyer who led efforts to protect the rights of gays, lesbians, and people with AIDS in the workplace, died of a heart attack at his West Hollywood, Calif., apartment on April 5. He was 63. Walker was the driving force behind then-governor Jerry Brown's 1979 executive order banning discrimination against gay state employees. His efforts helped pave the way in 1984 for an amendment to the state's hate-crimes law to include sexual orientation in the list of protected classes. He also was the lead attorney in the first California court case in the mid 1980s to affirm that employers could not discriminate against workers with AIDS. The case, filed on behalf of a Santa Barbara man whose employer refused to allow him to return to work because of fears he might infect other workers, was one of the first in the nation to address the workplace rights of people with AIDS.
A Washington, D.C., native, Walker graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1962 and the New York University School of Law in 1966. He served as the dean of student affairs at the San Fernando Valley College of Law and as a consultant for the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing before entering private practice in 1983. His firm eventually grew to include five gay lawyers and was believed to be the largest all-gay law firm in Los Angeles, according to employees of the agency. Walker was a founding member of the California Employment Lawyers Association and organized the Gay and Lesbian State Employees Association. He is survived by his mother, Sylvia Walker; a sister, Minette Hillman; and a niece, Elizabeth Hillman.