House Passes Gomez Bill to Name Los Angeles U.S. Courthouse After Civil Rights Icons

Watch Gomez’s floor speech HERE.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today the U.S. House of Representatives passed U.S. Rep. Jimmy Gomez’s (CA-34) bipartisan legislation to name the Los Angeles U.S. Courthouse after Felicitas and Gonzalo Mendez, American civil rights icons. The Mendez’s activism to stop racial discrimination in California schools, alongside the Ramirez, Estrada, Guzman and Palomino families, culminated in the landmark 1946 case that led to the end of segregation in California schools and paved the way for Brown v. Board of Education. Thurgood Marshall wrote the NAACP’s amicus brief in the case, and just years later used similar reasoning before the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education.

The courthouse naming bill now heads to the Senate.

Gomez’s bill would be a historic first, as the Felicitas and Gonzalo Mendez United States Courthouse would be the first federal courthouse named after a Latina out of over 200 named federal courthouses in the U.S. The courthouse sits just blocks from where the historic Mendez case was originally decided.

More information on the Mendez family and Gomez’s legislation can be found HERE.

“Today we took a historic step in honoring the history of civil rights in Los Angeles and across the nation by passing legislation to name the Los Angeles U.S. Courthouse after civil rights icons Felicitas and Gonzalo Mendez,” said Rep. Gomez. “When the Mendez family and four other courageous families challenged segregation in California schools 77 years ago, they paved the way for the landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling that desegregated schools for all students. The Felicitas and Gonzalo Mendez U.S. Courthouse will be a powerful symbol of the enduring Latino American legacy and our nation’s broader struggle for equality. I am proud to have worked closely with Felicitas and Gonzalo's trailblazing daughter, Sylvia, on this legislation and I urge the Senate to pass it quickly and enshrine this important piece of history in our nation’s story.”

“What an immense honor that the House passed Congressman Jimmy Gomez’s bill to memorialize the work of my parents and all the families involved in this case by naming the Los Angeles US courthouse after them,” said Sylvia Mendez, whose education was at the heart of the landmark Mendez v. Westminster case. “My parents and the four other families in this case refused to give up on their vision for a more equal society for their children, where the color of someone’s skin doesn’t determine their access to education. I am eager to see Congressman Gomez’s bill pass the Senate to preserve this important piece of history.”

“[Felicitas and Gonzalo Mendez’s] activism, along with four other families, culminated in the landmark 1946 case Mendez et al v. Westminster et al that led to the end of segregation in California schools and paved the way for Brown v. Board of Education. The NAACP’s connection to this case and the Mendez, Guzman, Palomino, Estrada, and Ramirez families dates back to 1946. During the original case, the NAACP sent an amicus curiae brief in support of the families and argued that school segregation was inherently unjust and unconstitutional,” the NAACP wrote in a letter of support for the bill. “Nearly 80 years later, we stand by our words and advocacy in the Mendez v. Westminster case and the advocacy of the families who fought for equal protection under the law for all children. Today, we honor their legacy in supporting this bill. We strongly believe the Felicitas and Gonzalo Mendez United States Courthouse will be an enduring testament to the movement for civil rights for all.”

"The U.S. House of Representatives has passed the bill to name the Los Angeles federal courthouse after Felicitas and Gonzalo Mendez, recognizing their significant contributions to civil rights and education equality," said Rep. Nanette Barragán (CA-44), Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. “This courthouse would be the first in the country named after a Latina, and by honoring the Mendez family, it will serve as a symbol of Latino civil and equal rights history in our city and the United States. Their courage dismantled the segregation policies in California schools, sparking a movement towards a more equitable and just American education system for all students of color. I’m thankful to Congressman Jimmy Gomez for his efforts to commemorate their legacy.”

“Because of Felicitas and Gonzalo Mendez's court battle in the 1940s, generations of Californian students have grown up in an education system that doesn't segregate them by race and where they have a greater chance to reach their potential. The Mendez family relocated to Westminster because the Japanese American Munemitsu family, who were themselves tragically experiencing the injustice of World War II incarceration by the federal government, was willing to lease them farmland to tend to. I thank CAPAC Executive Member Rep. Gomez for his leadership to have Congress highlight how intertwined our stories and fights for justice and equality are and recognize the significance of the Mendez v. Westminster case to California's and America's civil rights history,” said Rep. Judy Chu (CA-28), Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.

“Decades after Brown v. Board and Mendez v. Westminster, the fight for equality in education continues,” said Rep. Steven Horsford (NV-04), Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. “Honoring Felicitas and Gonzalo Mendez by naming the Los Angeles US Courthouse after them takes a step to rectify past injustices and will serve as a reminder of their advocacy. This legislation will reinforce our continued commitment to work toward justice and equality.”

“As a co-sponsor to H.R.5754, which commemorates the legacy of Felicitas and Gonzalo Mendez, I am so glad to see the bipartisan support it has received and especially proud because one of those honored, the late Felicitas Mendez, was born in Juncos, Puerto Rico. After moving with her family to the mainland and developing strong ties with the Mexican-American community, Felicitas grew to be a key figure leading the effort to desegregate California schools for Latinos. This bill recognizes an important chapter in the journey towards equality for all, and Felicitas’ role reminds us of the importance of solidarity among communities and of how Puerto Ricans have played an important part in the American story for over a century. I strongly encourage the Senate to quickly take up this bill to ensure this history is remembered,” said Rep. Jenniffer Gonzalez Colon (PR).

“I am very proud to support this bill to recognize the critical role Felicitas and Gonzalo Mendez served in the fight for civil rights in the United States,” said Rep. Grace Napolitano (CA-31). “As Congressman Jimmy Gomez marked the introduction of his bill last September, I was pleased to stand alongside Sylvia Mendez, daughter of Felicitas and Gonzalo and a dedicated civil rights activist, who travels the country to ensure the legacies of her parents and the four other families are not forgotten. With today’s House passage we are one step closer to further cementing these legacies in American history. I am also proud to have worked with my LA-area colleagues in 2011, especially former Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard, in advocating for the construction of this much needed courthouse in downtown Los Angeles. The Felicitas and Gonzalo Mendez U.S. Courthouse will serve as a reminder of the many invaluable contributions of Latino Americans to this country, and I urge the Senate to pass this legislation without delay.”

“Congress is one step closer to fully honoring the contributions of the Mendez family to ending the segregation of Hispanic students in California schools,” said Rep. Michelle Steel (CA-45). “I was proud to cosponsor and vote to rename the Los Angeles U.S. Courthouse in honor of Felicitas and Gonzalo Mendez’s historic contributions to school integration, as their journey for equality began within my district in the City of Westminster. Racial discrimination has no place in American education, and I urge the Senate to swiftly take up this important measure.”

“We applaud the House’s bipartisan passage of Congressman Jimmy Gomez’s bill to name the federal courthouse in his district in honor of Gonzalo and Felicitas Mendez," said Janet Murguía, President and CEO of UnidosUS. "We thank Rep. Gomez for his leadership on a bill that would be a timely and fitting addition to the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of Brown versus Board of Education, and the role the Mendez family and Mendez v. Westminster played in laying the groundwork to that landmark decision which ended legal segregation in schools. We call on the Senate to act quickly to pass the bill in tribute to the efforts of the Mendez family and many others who fought to give ALL children a chance at a good education."

The NAACP wrote a letter of support of Rep. Gomez’s legislation to memorialize the Mendez family, and the following 21 advocacy organizations also submitted a letter of support: 

Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents (ALAS)

Esperanza United (formerly Casa de Esperanza: National Latin@ Network)


Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) 

Hispanic Federation

Hispanic National Bar Association


Labor Council for Latin American Advancement

LatinoJustice PRLDEF

Latinos for Education

League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)

MANA, A National Latina Organization

Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF)

Migrant Legal Action Program

National Hispanic Media Coalition

National Hispanic Medical Association

National Latinx Psychological Association

National Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Association

SER National

The National HEP/CAMP Association



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