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Guide to the Robert G. DeSantis Papers, 1971-1974
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content
  • Materials Removed from the Collection
  • Related Collections

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Robert G. DeSantis Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1971-1974
    Accession number: 1994-04
    Creator: DeSantis, Robert G.
    Extent: .85 linear feet in 2 boxes
    Repository: The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society.
    San Francisco, California.
    Shelf location: Housed at the GLBT Historical Society
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information


    The papers of Robert G. DeSantis (#1994-04) were donated by DeSantis in 1994.


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright to unpublished manuscript materials has been transferred to the GLBT Historical Society.

    Audio-Visual Materials

    There is one picture of DeSantis.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Robert G. DeSantis Papers, 1994-04, the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society.


    Robert G. DeSantis was a member of the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) of Los Angeles in its beginning years. The MCC was the first lesbian and gay church, founded in 1970 by the Reverend Troy Perry.
    In 1971 DeSantis began classes at the Samaritan Bible Seminary of the MCC (he was officially accepted into the program in 1972). After graduating from the seminary, he became an exhorter for the MCC. In 1974 he was appointed the Acting Chaplain of the San Quentin Prison Ministry by the US Board of Prison Ministry. The term "Acting Chaplain" was used by the MCC to describe his role as an unliscensed minister. The extent of time he served as the prison ministry as well as his future involvement with the MCC is unknown.
    During the early 1970's DeSantis kept limited correspondence with several national evangelistic organizations such as the ministry of the Reverend Billy Graham. He also kept correspondence with California Assemblyman Willie Brown regarding the 'consenting adults' bills AB 437 and AB 470.

    Scope and Content

    The Robert G. DeSantis papers (.85 linear feet) document the religious career development of an individual who aspired to become a member of the MCC hierarchy from 1971 to 1974. The papers also document his involvement with the prison ministry and his personal correspondence with gay prisoners throughout California. The papers are divided into three series; the prison ministry and prisoner correspondence, correspondence and Seminary notes.
    The prison ministry notes include administrative papers concerning the appointment of DeSantis and his correspondence with the US Board of Prisons Ministry, pamphlets of religious support organizations established at San Quentin, newsletters, papers collected from the 1974 Stonewalls Prison Conference, and personal correspondence between DeSantis and prisoners from various prison facilities throughout California. The prison papers are organized chronologically.
    The personal correspondence between DeSantis and inmates from various prisons provides some of the most useful information in this collection. Letters written by Clem Bassett, Herbert Hay, Harry Lieble, and Bill Thiel give personal accounts of the experiences of gay inmates. The most interesting and disturbing papers are to be found in the letters written by Gary Keller and Ron Rose who maintained a love affair in the psychiatric facility of Atascadero. Their letters to DeSantis portray the violent discrimination that patients may have suffered at the hands of hospital employees after they openly acknowledged their homosexuality. The letters describe an incident, for instance, where Keller had been forced unconscious by a seizure and was awakened by a night guard who was kicking him relentlessly and accusing him of having sex with Rose. Keller said he was prevented later from taking his seizure medicine as punishment for the disturbance.
    The professional portfolio of DeSantis, as well as his notes on the Samaritan Bible Seminary are useful for portraying the structure, ideology and hierarchy of the MCC. The seminary notes which are the last papers of the collection give an extensive description of the classroom content which was being taught at the MCC. Psychological theory is used in conjunction with Biblical principles to construct a Christian ideology that is both traditional and pro-gay. The notes are arranged by class subject in chronological order.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Gay men

    Materials Removed from the Collection

    Six inches of pamphlets, propaganda and newsletters for the national and Los Angeles MCC.

    Related Collections

    Subject files: MCC