“Who was Tom Homann?” It might seem an odd question to ask, years into the life of the Tom Homann Law Association. Certainly, he was a gay lawyer. Certainly, he was known and, much more importantly, admired by those who founded our minority bar association. But delving into the answer of who Tom was takes us on a fascinating exploration of who we are, as individuals living within the San Diego community, and where we’ve been.
This initial biography can hardly purport to describe all that Tom Homann was and all that he represents to the gay, lesbian, and bisexual legal community in San Diego. So here’s the basic biographical rundown: Tom Homann was a gay lawyer in San Diego who died of AIDS at age 42, in 1991. He moved to California from the Midwest in 1952 and moved to San Diego in 1974. He passed the bar in 1978.
In his relatively short legal career, Tom made an enormous impact on the local community. The San Diego newspapers from the 1980s are filled with reports on his constitutional battles with the establishment.
He fought with the city to prevent it from shutting down the F Street adult bookstores or limiting the materials they sold; he fought city efforts to license and restrict the operations of topless bars; he sued the San Diego County Sheriff when the sheriff refused to hire gay and lesbian deputies, persuading the sheriff to stop discriminatory hiring policies; and he represented two sailors with AIDS who the Navy wanted to discharge without medical benefits because they were gay.
The list of his legal battles and accomplishments goes on and on. The hallmark of his efforts was to empower those who were shunned by society and to prevent the government from silencing minority voices.
In 1990, Tom received the ACLU’s Ceil Podoloff Award for his civil liberties efforts, including battles surrounding the First Amendment, police misconduct and gay and lesbian rights.
“My guiding principle is a distrust for government and a skepticism about the way government utilizes its power, and a desire to resist authority as much as possible,” Tom told the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Tom worked with attorney George Haverstick, now retired, and credited Haverstick with helping to forge Tom’s goals as an attorney.
“I made a choice at that point that I’d rather have a fun and interesting law practice and litigate constitutional issues,” Tom told the Union-Tribune.
THLA is fortunate to have among its members many people who knew Tom well. This website and our newsletters will continue carrying other remembrances of Tom, as well as of the history of gay life in San Diego. Anyone interested in contributing a personal remembrance is welcome to do so by contacting us.