Rand Schrader, Judge and Gay Activist, Dies at 48 : Law: AIDS claims Municipal Court jurist. He is remembered for eloquence and tact in fight for equal rights.


Rand Schrader, one of the first openly gay judges in California and an eloquent champion of gay and lesbian causes, died Sunday. He was 48.

Schrader died at Century City Hospital of complications from AIDS, according to family friends.

A Los Angeles native, Schrader was appointed to the Los Angeles Municipal Court bench in 1980 by former Gov. Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr. and continued to preside there until April.


Schrader’s gay activism and determination to be open about his sexuality dated from his days as a law student at UCLA in the early 1970s.

“I went to the dean of the Law School at UCLA and asked him: ‘Will I be admitted to the Bar if I’m openly gay?’ ” Schrader recounted in an interview with The Times last year. The dean, though hardly enthusiastic about the idea, replied that he would.

“That’s how frightened we were,” Schrader said, recalling the early years of the gay movement, when society and its institutions were considerably less tolerant of homosexuals.

Schrader did not retreat into the closet. After law school he was hired by former Los Angeles City Atty. Burt Pines as the first openly homosexual staff lawyer in the office.

“He was a real pioneer,” Pines said. “There was a lot of pressure on him being first. I was sure at the time that the Police Department was scrutinizing him. People in the office were nervous about the situation.”

But it did not take long, Pines added, for Schrader to dispel the worries. “He was a star performer. . . . In a relatively short period of time he had the respect of everyone he worked with, including real conservative prosecutors who thought they could never work with a gay.”

Schrader headed the office’s criminal appellate section before his appointment to the bench, all the while practicing his own brand of gay activism.

“He brought tact, rather than ‘in your face,’ ” said Morris Kight, a veteran gay activist. “He simply went out and acted out the role of an upwardly mobile, achieving person.”

Schrader believed that it was important to be openly gay not just for his own sake, but for other gay people as well. He held parties for gay law students to show that there were happy, successful gay attorneys and judges in the city.

“Wherever I’ve gone, I’ve been open about being gay,” Schrader told The Times in 1984. “And when I leave, people may not like me but they’re not afraid of me.”

At the same time, he worked with a number of ground-breaking gay and lesbian organizations. He joined the boards of the Municipal Elections Committee of Los Angeles, the first gay political action committee, and the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center, helping it win public funding. He was named one of the first members of the Los Angeles County AIDS Commission, serving as chairman for two years.

“He spoke with great eloquence and dignity on causes that he believed in,” said County Supervisor Ed Edelman, who appointed Schrader to the commission. Schrader was a driving force in the establishment of the AIDS clinic at County-USC Medical Center, and the clinic was recently renamed in his honor.

“One of his great impatiences dealt with the fact that the county was very slow in recognizing the immensity of the (AIDS) epidemic and in taking care of those who could not afford service in the private sector,” said Rabbi Allen I. Freehling, who served on the commission with Schrader and lobbied the Board of Supervisors with him.

When Schrader was found to have the AIDS virus in 1991, he maintained his openness, going public with his illness and continuing his judicial work. Just as he had wanted to be a role model as a gay professional, he sought to show that those with AIDS could lead productive lives.

Even when he became so weakened he had to use a wheelchair, Schrader’s passion for the gay cause endured. At the end of April he traveled to Washington with his longtime companion, businessman David Bohnett, to take part in the largest gay rights march in the history of the nation.

Schrader also is survived by his mother, Hildy Lustig of Camarillo; his father, whose name was not provided by friends; a brother, Jon Schrader of Aptos, and a sister-in-law, Marcy Schrader of Aptos.

Interment will be private. A memorial service will be planned.