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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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Recent Statewide News

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The ACLU Foundation of Northern California launched the California Immigration Detention Database, a tool to track complaints filed by immigrants in California detention facilities to seek redress against inhumane conditions.

(06/26/2023) → YubaNet

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The Salt & Straw ice cream chain is part of the upcycling movement, creating high-quality products from leftover food with flavors like Cacao Pulp & Chocolate Stracciatella Gelato, made from leftover cacao pulp from chocolate production.

(06/26/2023) → The Sacramento Observer

• New California Hotline Takes Anonymous Reports on Hate Crimes

The new California vs Hate network allows victims and witnesses of hate incidents to report anonymously and receive services. It is a “response to the rise in reports of hate incidents and crimes,” said Kevin Kish, director of the California Civil Rights Department.

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

• California Is Getting a New Assembly Speaker

Robert Rivas tells anyone who will listen that his rise from farmworker housing on the rural Central Coast to Assembly Speaker is wholly unexpected. But many who have watched the Democrat’s climb from an outgoing high-schooler to a San Benito County supervisor to the holder of one most powerful political offices in the state are not surprised.

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

• California Assembly Considers Plan to Honor Outgoing Speaker

California lawmakers are poised to consider HR 47, which would rename room 317 in the Capitol as the “Speaker Anthony Rendon Press Room.” The resolution highlights Rendon’s lengthy time as speaker—the longest since California set term limits for state lawmakers.

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