Stand for Zandra Rolon and Deborah Johnson

The following is a FREE introductory mini-guide to CIVIC Inquiry Kits, a component of History UnErased's Intersections and Connections Curriculum, the first and only LGBT+ social studies curriculum aligned with state and national standards. CIVIC Inquiry Kits are anchored in the Give Voice to History Project, archival audio oral history testimony produced in partnership with Making Gay History - The Podcast.

Stand for Zandra Rolon and Deborah Johnson Access Points

Filing a court case and rationale for its path and progression through the judicial system

Evolving interpretation of protected classes

*Recommended for grades 8+

Rationale for using archival audio oral history testimony

Listening is an important skill, as it promotes active engagement, improves reading, and helps students understand tone, message, and central themes. Listening is also critical to social emotional learning development.

Learning Outcomes

Students will be able to identify the process and rationale for the progression of the Rolon v. Kulwitzky court case

Students will be able to analyze specific discriminatory policies and practices relating to sexual orientation  

Essential Questions

How did Rolon v. Kulwitzky clarify anti-discrimination laws and protected classes?

What was the underlying principle of the Rolon v. Kulwitzky court case?

Background Information on the Unruh Civil Rights Act

The Unruh Civil Rights Act, named for its author Jesse Unruh, was enacted in 1959 as part of California Civil Code (section 51) to provide protection from discrimination by all businesses - including housing and public accommodations. Today, section 51 outlaws discrimination based on sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, or sexual orientation. (Sexual orientation was added as a protected class in 2005). Prior to amending California Civil Code, the courts often interpreted the law as protecting classes other than those explicitly stated.

Understanding the 1984 Rolon v. Kulwitzky court case

Introduce comprehension questions to help students understand the process and rationale for the progression of the Rolon v. Kulwitzky court case. The essential questions help students understand interpretations of protected classes to include sexual orientation.


  1. Teacher introduces or accesses students' prior knowledge about the American Civil Rights Act of 1964 Title VII Protected Classes
  2. Teacher introduces background information and the essential questions
  3. Students listen to Part I of Deborah Johnson and Zandra Rolon Amato's audio oral history testimony from the Give Voice to History Project (embedded below)
  4. In collaborative groups, students respond to the comprehension questions for Part I, ask further questions, and note observations
  5. Students listen to Part II (embedded below)
  6. In collaborative groups, students respond to the comprehension questions for Part II, ask further questions, and note observations
  7. Teacher assigns essential questions as a springboard for facilitated discussion
  8. Suggested assessment: BUILDING A NATION Visual Analysis Assessment Tool

Comprehension Questions for Part I

  1. What special event were Deborah and Zandra celebrating?
  2. Why were Deborah and Zandra told they could not sit at the private booths?
  3. How did they respond?
  4. How would you describe Deborah and Zandra?
  5. What had been untested in the California courts?

Comprehension Questions for Part II

  1. What does it mean to file a case?
  2. What two laws did Allred use when filing the case?
  3. What was the purpose of the injunction?
  4. What reason does the first judge give for not ordering an injunction?
  5. What is the double standard that Johnson refers to when speaking about the lower court?
  6. The case became a media spectacle. Why do you think this was front-page news in 1983/84?
  7. What did the appellate court decide?
  8. What impact did the California Supreme Court's decision have on the appellate court's ruling?
  9. Johnson compares their case to incidents in the segregated South. Which incidents might she be referring? Is this a fair comparison? Why or why not?

Transcripts are located below image of complementing 24" x 36" classroom poster, available for individual purchase at the UnErased Store.

Suggested Connections: Masterpiece Cakeshop v Colorado Civil Rights Commission oral arguments transcript (December 5, 2017) and/or federal and state laws regarding gender equity and Title IX

In this Give Voice to History Project archival audio oral history recorded in 1991, you will hear Deborah Johnson (D in the transcript), Zandra Rolon (Z), and the interviewer, Eric Marcus (E).

E:  I'm Eric Marcus from Making Gay History. Over the course of two decades beginning in 1988, I conducted a hundred interviews with trailblazers from the LGBTQ civil rights movement. Now, with the Give Voice to History Project, I’m bringing some of those trailblazers into your classrooms to help tell the story of this part of the American Civil Rights Movement.

Meet Deborah Johnson and Zandra Rolon Amato. Deborah grew up in Los Angeles in what she described as a very "upper-middle-class bourgeois black household—a very well-rooted, extremely well-connected family." Deborah called Zandra’s family "a Mexican commune."

Zandra explained, jokingly, that she was related to three quarters of the population in Brownsville, Texas.

Back in January 1983, they were a young couple on what was supposed to be a romantic date night. But when they faced discrimination over their dinner reservation, they refused to back down.

Speaking to me in 1991, Zandra told me that she made the reservation for a special occasion.

Z:  At the time I was working on Saturdays. So this was the first weekend that we were gonna have a complete weekend together since we had gotten together. It was also the year right before Martin Luther King’s birthday was made into a holiday.  

And a friend of mine told me about this restaurant that was really nice. And the restaurant had these six booths on one side that were real romantic. And we got there and the, um, waiter kind of questioned us about, "Are you sure you want the booths?" And we told him, yes. And it’s the type of booths where you have to move the table out so that you can get in—like a horseshoe. And in the middle of the horseshoe was like a fountain and there was a guy with a, a violinist who came around. And right in front of the table was a little white sheer curtain that closed. And candlelight. And it was just romantic.

E:  Did it occur to you that this might be a problem?

Z:  Not at all. I mean, to me, discrimination never enters my mind first, ever.  

So they showed us to our table. We sit down. And we’re taking our jackets off and this tall humongous guy comes by and...

D:  … and yanked the table away and told us, you know, you know, "So sorry, but you can't sit here. It’s against the law to serve two men or two women in these booths." 

Z:  We asked to see the manager.

D:  We were not going to move.

Z:  The guy that turned out to be the real maitre ’d kept giving us the, you know, the back of the