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Welcome to Pride Month in San Francisco!
By Assemblyman Mark Leno
This marks the 36th year that cities across the nation have celebrated
Pride as a way to highlight our beautiful diversity and support civil
liberties for all. Pride is also when we appreciate the hard work
of pioneering advocates who came before us and who struggled for the
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community’s right to be
treated with dignity and respect— a struggle that continues to this
We trace the origins of Pride to the last weekend of June in
1969. The Civil Rights movement had been in full swing for at
least a decade. The “Second Wave” of the Women’s Movement was
taking root. Protests against the Vietnam War were growing.
Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. had been assassinated a
year prior. Within this social and political context, another
movement was about to emerge.
June 27, 1969 was a seemingly quiet day in New York City’s Greenwich
Village, but it turned out to be a loud night of protests and would
become the clarion call for a new generation. It was on this
night that the police, along with the Beverage Control Board, raided a
popular gay bar, the Stonewall Inn. The police claimed they were
there to enforce liquor laws. The problem was that these laws
were being selectively used against establishments catering to LGBT
At the time, police raids on gay bars were common practice. In
fact, most patrons did not protest because they were afraid of being
publicly exposed as gay or lesbian. This fear only gave police
greater power to physically abuse, arrest, and scare people into
submission without resistance. To compound the situation, the
target of those attacks would oftentimes be listed in the newspaper the
next day as part of a societal campaign to intimidate, threaten, and
shame these individuals.
However, minorities can take tyranny and oppression for only so long
before they finally say “enough is enough!” For queer folks in
New York, that moment came on this June night in 1969, when the patrons
of The Stonewall Inn fought back. The resulting three nights of
rioting gave birth to a social change movement in which thousands “came
out of the closet” and proudly proclaimed their identity. The
next year, 5,000 LGBT individuals marched in New York City to
commemorate the first year anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.
Each year in June, hundreds of cities, large and small, hold a festival
and parade to honor that rebellion, and celebrate the newfound pride in
the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community. San
Francisco is home to one of the largest Pride festivals in the world,
with a month-long series of events and programs throughout June,
culminating in the annual parade down Market Street. To find out
more about this year’s Pride events, contact San Francisco Pride at
(415) 864-FREE (3733) or via the web at http://www.sfpride.org.
To learn more about the history of this ongoing movement, you can also
visit the GLBT Historical Society at 657 Mission Street #300 where they
have exhibits, galleries, archival materials, and on-going programs
that provide a wealth of knowledge about the LGBT experience. You
can find them on the web at http://www.glbthistory.org or call (415)
The struggle for LGBT inclusion continues today in the California
Legislature, where I am proud to be a co-author for the Bias Free
Curriculum Act of 2006, Senate Bill 1437, which would require that the
historical contributions of LGBT Americans be reflected in the
textbooks used in California’s public schools. This would
give students a broader, more inclusive picture of our society, and has
statistically been shown to reduce harassment and increase positive
attitudes and fairness in schools.
I encourage you to learn more about the contributions of our LGBT
citizens and its rich and vibrant history. If you would like more
information about this issue, or would be interested in joining me in
my contingent during this year’s Pride Parade on June 25th, please
contact my office in San Francisco at (415) 557-3013, via the web at
http://www.assembly.ca.gov/Leno, or email me directly at
Bio & Past Articles
Betty's List 'Mark My Word'
Columnist Assemblyman Mark Leno
Assemblyman Mark Leno made history in November 2002 when he was elected as one of the first openly gay men to the California State Assembly, representing District 13, the eastern portion of San Francisco. He currently serves as Chair of the Public Safety Committee, one of only four freshman legislators appointed to Chair a policy committee in their first year. He also serves on the Appropriations, Local Government, and Revenue & Taxation Committees and is the Chair of Select Committees on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender (LBGT) Families and Childhood Obesity & Related Diabetes.
A native of Wisconsin, Leno attended the University of Colorado at Boulder, then went on to become valedictorian of his graduating class at the American College of Jerusalem, where he earned his Bachelor of Arts Degree. Leno also spent two years in Rabbinical Studies at Hebrew Union College in New York.
Prior to his election to the State Assembly, Assemblyman Leno served as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors from April 1998 to December 2002. He authored landmark legislation in the areas of affordable housing, universal health care for children, solar energy, late night entertainment, bond oversight, small business services, City CarShare, medical cannabis, equal access to services, and LGBT civil rights.
Leno is the owner of Budget Signs, Inc., a small business he founded in 1978 and operated with his life partner, Douglas Jackson. Together the two entrepreneurs steadily grew their sign business until Jackson passed away from complications relating to AIDS/HIV in 1990. This deep loss would not deter Leno. Instead, he redoubled his efforts in community service.
He has served on the boards of many local and national organizations including the LGBT Community Center Project, Haight Ashbury Community Services, the American Jewish Congress, Mobilization Against AIDS, and the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. He is the recipient of the 1995 Small Business Owner of the Year Award from the Small Business Network, the 1995 Hormel Community Service Award from the Human Rights Campaign and the James R. Sylla Award from the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.
Outside of his capacity as an elected official, Leno has been a tireless supporter of nonprofit organizations in San Francisco, frequently appearing to show support at events and lending a hand wherever possible. He was a statewide spokesman for the No on Prop 22 Campaign (the Knight Initiative) and was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles in August 2000.