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By Eric Johnson
Published Jun 26, 2023

Image credit: Chris Allan, Shutterstock

It’s California Pride Month

Before we get to the serious business of celebrating the LGBTQ+ community—in particular, the heroic men and women who helped make California a safer and more humane place—let’s have some fun.

Fully in the spirit of pride month, treat yourself to this short video of the fabulous Sacramento Gay Men’s Chorus performing a familiar piece from last weekend’s show titled “Queens for a Night.“ (Maybe you guessed it: This tribute would make Freddie Mercury proud.) (It begins abruptly but starts to get good three seconds in.)

The Sunday afternoon show was the chorus’s final performance under the direction of Artistic Director Christian Bohm. According to our correspondent Traci Hukill, it was a tearfully joyous scene.


Putting the Pride in California

My colleague Sharan Street has been working for weeks to prepare for a new iteration of the California Canon—a series celebrating the people and things that make the Golden State so great. This week we focus on people who were central to the creation of organizations and media in the gay rights movement.

There are many LGBTQ+ heroes in our state’s history, so Sharan’s initial list was quite long. It included, for example, filmmaker Dorothy Arzner, gay icon Harvey Milk, and of course the gaily iconic George Takei, who is one of the most delightful human beings in the world.

Sharan’s original hall of heroes also includes Sheila Kuehl, the first lesbian elected to the California legislature, as well as Mark Leno and John Laird, the first gay men elected to that body—more on John below.

We decided for this installment of the California LGBT Canon to limit it to the groundbreaking Californians who did important work in the 1950s and 1960s that led us to the happier place we now reside.

An excerpt: “Ask your favorite search engine to identify “the birthplace of gay pride,” and right at the top, in the first blurb, you’ll find the Stonewall Riots—the uprising that began June 28, 1969, in a Greenwich Village club and led directly to the creation of Gay Pride Month. But a quick perusal of “Milestones in the American Gay Rights Movement” proves that the Left Coast contributed more than its fair share to the cause.”

And: I had the pleasure last week of interviewing my friend John Laird, who, 40 years ago, became one of the first out gay mayors in American history. (Among other significant accomplishments, as you will see.)


State Sen. John Laird on California Pride

The California Senate Democrats released a video of John Laird talking about the history of the LGBT Caucus in the state legislature.
In 1983, John Laird became one of the first three openly gay mayors in the history of the United States. He has spent the past four decades serving California.

California’s LGBTQ Trailblazers

Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon were married twice in San Francisco: in 2004, when Mayor Gavin Newsom began issuing same-sex marriage licenses, and again in 2008 (pictured).
Learn about the charismatic leaders who founded Daughters of Bilitis, Mattachine Society, ONE Inc. and other “homophile movement” groups in the Golden State.


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• Stockton City Council Votes to Raise the LGBTQ+ flag

A divided Stockton City Council voted 4-3 to raise the LGBTQ+ rainbow flag in honor of Pride Month. Earlier this month, the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors failed to pass a motion to fly the Pride flag above the county's administrative building.

(06/21/2023) → CapPublicRadio

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(06/26/2023) → YubaNet

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(06/26/2023) → The Sacramento Observer

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(06/23/2023) → Read the full The Sacramento Bee report

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(06/22/2023) → Read the full The Sacramento Bee report

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(06/20/2023) → Read the full The Sacramento Bee report