Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Brief Look at San Diego LGBTQ History

I realize that this timeline doesn't look "brief." But it WILL when you see the full timeline at the Lambda Archives!

1917. An ordinance is passed that prohibits sexual activity within the city limits of San Diego, except between husband and wife.

1920s & 1930s. Visitors to Alpine find Julian Eltinge, a respected actor and one of the world’s most renowned female impersonators.

1968. Lesbian enlisted person, Diann Pierce, declares her homosexuality to Navy officials in San Diego and is dishonorably discharged. After lengthy court proceedings, Pierce’s discharge is upgraded to honorable due to her excellent Naval record.

1970. The Women’s Studies Department is founded at San Diego State College. It is thought to be the first such department in U.S. academia.

1971. Gay Liberation Front, founded at San Diego State College, pickets the San Diego Police Department to protest police harassment of gays. It is one of the first organized public gay demonstrations in San Diego.

1974. Two hundred men and women march through downtown San Diego to publicly proclaim they are gay. This is the beginning of the San Diego Pride Parade.

1979. On August 23, Assistant Chief of Police Bob Burgreen announces that San Diego will hire qualified gay and lesbian persons as officers.

Al Best runs for San Diego City Council as the first openly gay candidate for elected office in San Diego. He finishes fifth out of eleven.

First-year SDSU professor Bonnie Zimmerman teaches an experimental class in the Department of Women’s Studies on "Lesbian Life and Literature."

1983. Blood Sisters is founded by the San Diego Democratic Club. The donations of blood create credits for blood to be given to people with AIDS. Nearly 200 lesbians give blood in response to news that gay men are no longer allowed to donate.

1987. The Archives is founded in December to “preserve and teach our history.” It is later renamed Lambda Archives.

1988. As part of its nationwide tour, the Names Project’s AIDS Memorial Quilt comes to San Diego on April 12 and is visited by thousands at Golden Hall.

1990. Frank Buttino, an FBI agent in San Diego for 20 years, has his security clearance revoked in May and is fired for being gay. The Bureau refuses to consider his exemplary record and fires him citing “exploitable sexual conduct.”

Police officer John Graham comes out to the press in October. A highly respected officer, Graham says he felt it was important to come out so that gay men and lesbians could see that they could become successful police officers.

1991. After the murder of John Wear in Hillcrest, The Citizen’s Patrol is founded to protect gays and lesbians from violent acts.

1992. After he comes out publicly as a gay man, El Cajon police officer Chuck Merino is notified by the local council of the Boy Scouts that he is no longer welcome in its program because he does not meet their “high standards for membership.”

Despite a show of opposition, the San Diego Unified School District Board of Education approves a policy prohibiting discrimination against both employees and students based on sexual orientation.

1993. One hundred demonstrators march in Balboa Park on July 4th to protest the ban on gays in the military. Some march in uniform; some wear paper bags over their heads to conceal their identities.

Seventy lesbian and gay couples are joined in a Celebration of Commitment ceremony in Balboa Park on October 11, National Coming Out Day.

1994. The city of San Diego extends domestic partner benefits to all city employees.

A teacher at Oak Park Elementary School reprimanded and then transferred after she explained to her class that gay students do not deserve to be the victims of physical violence.

1997. San Diego Pride for the first time attracts more than 100,000 spectators and makes the front page of the Union-Tribune.

1998. San Diego's 1966 Cross-dressing Law that made it illegal to dress in the clothing of the opposite sex is repealed with a 7-1 vote. The one dissenter, George Stevens, says, "The issue to me is deception. It is a very dangerous thing to cross-dress."

1999. A homophobic observer at the Pride Parade hurls a tear-gas canister at the Family Pride contingent in the parade and then escapes into the crowd.

2000. Openly lesbian Christine Kehoe and Toni Atkins win elections. Kehoe moves to the State assembly and Atkins replaces her as Third District Councilperson.

2001. Bonnie Dumanis is elected District Attorney for San Diego County and becomes the first openly gay or lesbian district attorney ever elected in the United States.

The Union-Tribune publishes its first same-sex anniversary announcement in its “Celebrations” section recognizing the silver anniversary of David Rea and Harry Sillen, the owners of David’s Coffee House in Hillcrest.

2003. Guadalupe Benitez is denied fertility treatments by the North Coast Women’s Care Medical Group of Vista because she is a lesbian.

2004. The San Diego LGBT Community Wall of Honor is the nation’s only LGBT community memorial display dedicated to honoring and remembering important local LGBT community members.

2005. Mayor Steve Padilla of Chula Vista comes out publicly as a gay man.

2008. Former Marine Sgt. Bob Lehman and City Commissioner Tom Felkner make history as the first same sex couple to get married in San Diego on June 17th.

2007. "Pride Night" is declared at Petco Park as part of the festivities for Pride Week. Despite protestors gathered outside, "Pride Night" attendance is near capacity. The Padres beat the Braves 8-5.

San Diego Pride honors John Dapper and Lyman Hallowell who celebrate their 63rd anniversary, and Donna Phillips and Gladys Langsford who celebrate their 45th.

On November 15, tens of thousands of people take to the streets across America in protest of the passing of Proposition 8 in California. The largest march takes place in San Diego with an estimated 15,000 participants.

2009. A noisy five-hour sit-in at the county clerk’s office is launched when a gay couple is denied a marriage license.

The first Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast attracts a thousand people on Friday, May 22.

For more information on LGBTQ history, including more San Diego history, visit

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