It’s hard now to imagine the origins of San Diego Pride in 1974, when a handful of activists held a potluck and garage sale, then walked to Balboa Park from the social center that had opened in a house at 2250 B Street. They marched on the sidewalks because they had no permit.
Today Pride is the largest public event in San Diego, with hundreds of thousands of participants from across the country enjoying a block party, rally, parade, festival, and the spirit of a community that has won incredible and hard-fought advances over the past four decades.
About 400 people marched in the first real Pride Parade in 1975, the year the San Diego Democratic Club (now known as San Diego Democrats for Equality) was founded. Much like Pride itself, San Diego Democrats for Equality has grown from a few members on a mission to a political force for justice and equality. They have been in the forefront of every battle, every step of the way.
Beginning with the election of Christine Kehoe, the first LGBT member of the San Diego City Council, they have seen their members rise to the highest echelons of power in California with the election of Toni Atkins as Speaker of the Assembly. San Diego City Councilmember Todd Gloria has been a transformational leader. Dave Roberts was the first openly LGBT person elected to the County Board of Supervisors. Former club president Jess Durfee was my predecessor as Chair of the San Diego County Democratic Party and is now an elected member of the Democratic National Committee. These and other LGBT officials have raised awareness and shaped policy at all levels of government; now club members Chris Ward and Georgette Gomez are running for San Diego City Council in 2016.
On a rainy winter night in 2004, I sat in my car with a young gay man after the meeting of a local Democratic club. At that point, with anti-gay-marriage initiatives looming all over the country, he asked me what I thought of the chances of same-sex marriage becoming legal. I predicted that it would take a long time. We talked about the need to keep fighting even in the face of formidable opposition.
Thanks to thousands of personal conversations, and the tireless advocacy of organizations like the San Diego Democrats for Equality and their allies, full equality for members of the LGBT community has since become a cause embraced by a majority of Americans. Those conversations — some personal, some public — have taken place in homes, schools, workplaces, churches, city halls, statehouses, the Pentagon, the White House, and the U.S. Supreme Court.
It has been a long, tough march. There are still important battles to fight, like workplace discrimination and other forms of injustice the guise of “religious freedom.” But the shift in the consciousness of Americans has been remarkably swift. From the first defiant stand at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village in 1969 to the Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage just last month, members of the LGBT community have stepped out of the closet and into the sunlight at every level. Our whole society is immensely better as a result.
This year the San Diego Democrats for Equality are marking their 40th anniversary and 40th appearance in the Pride Parade with a large contingent that includes elected officials, candidates, Democratic clubs, friends, and supporters. They are also celebrating the Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality and the recent announcement that the Pentagon is taking steps toward enabling transgender members to serve openly. You are invited to join the club in the parade this Saturday, July 18. They’ll be staging on Normal Street near University Ave. at 9:00 a.m. Please park and take a shuttle from the Old Naval Hospital Parking lot at Park Blvd. and Presidents Way (entrance to Balboa Park). The parade begins at 11:00 a.m. and is just over a mile long. Make sure to wear some sunscreen, and a smile.
We salute the courage and determination of our LGBT brothers and sisters and wish you all a very happy Pride!
Chair, San Diego County Democratic Party