|Jean-Jacques-Regis de Cambaceres, 1753-1824||
Jean-Jacques-Regis de Cambaceres
(Accents in Cambaceres' name are shown above, but are omitted elsewhere on this page, as they will be misread on some computers.)
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In the tumultuous course of the French Revolution of 1789, a minor French lawmaker named Jean-Jacques-Regis de Cambaceres threaded his way through the political landmines of his era, to change the legal code in ways that are still felt.
Cambaceres was born in Montpelier to a family of minor nobility, and trained for the law. There is no record of when or how he recognized that he was homosexual, yet it is evident that for much of his life he was open about his orientation, albeit discreet about the particulars.
Cambaceres' legal training proved helpful once the Revolution broke out, when he sided against the regime of King Louis XVI. Through it all, however, he showed a level of moderation that kept his head attached to his neck, unlike the heads of so many of his compatriots.
Among the provisions, put there by Cambaceres, was the decriminalization of homosexuality. Many other countries, particularly in Europe and South America, modeled their own reforms after the Napoleonic Code, and abandoned anti-gay laws in the 19th century, but the United States was not among them.