#iamlanterman – Who Was Frank Lanterman?

Frank Lanterman

Coming out of the Capitol earlier this week, I ran into a group protesting outside. Although it isn’t unusual to see a group protesting outside, I was fascinated by the signs they carried; “I am Lanterman.”


The Lanterman that they were referring to was the Lanterman Developmental Center, one of five Developmental Centers operated by the California Department of Developmental Services. The center, incidentally, was named for a person.

So who was Lanterman? Frank D. Lanterman was a Republican Assemblyman from La Canada Flintridge (it was called La Canada at the time) who served 28 years before retiring in 1978.

He is best remembered for authoring the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act of 1971, a bipartisan bill coauthored with Democratic legislators Alan Short and Nicholas Petris. The bill addressed overcrowding in California mental institutions by ending the involuntary commitment of the mentally ill, which had the consequence of shifting thousands of former patients out of state institutions.

Later legislation, the Lanterman Developmental Disabilities Act (1977), expanded the protections that developmentally disabled persons enjoy.

Less famous was a different bill he authored, which required California’s Department of Mental Health “to plan, conduct and cause to be conducted scientific research into… the causes and cures of homosexuality, and into methods of identifying potential sex offenders.” The bill, coauthored with Democratic Senators Alan Short and Nicholas Petris remained state law until it was repealed in 2010 by Bonnie Lowenthal’s AB 2199.

As AB 2199 worked its way through the Legislature, only one legislator voted against the proposal. To put it a different way, the 75-1 vote in the Assembly and 36-0 vote in the Senate were a clear and complete repudiation of Lanterman’s bill.

That’s why it was so surprising to see the protesters with #IamLanterman signs. This place is fascinating.

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