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San Diego’s LGBT Activism Celebrated On Pride Weekend

Credit: "Big Mike" Phillips

The San Diego LGBT Pride parade float goes through Hillcrest in July 2013.

Generations of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender San Franciscans have sacrificed their liberty, their livelihoods, and occasionally even their lives to make a more just society for sexual and gender minorities. As a result, San Francisco has earned an enduring reputation as America’s home of LGBT activism.

San Diego Pride

This is the 40th anniversary of the San Diego Pride festival and parade, and events are planned throughout the weekend to celebrate the LGBT community.

Friday: Spirit of Stonewall Rally and flag raising, 6 p.m., Normal Street and University Avenue. Actress and LGBT advocate Laverne Cox, who appears in the Netflix series "Orange Is the New Black," is the scheduled keynote speaker. Free.

Friday: Hillcrest Block Party, 5 to 11:30 p.m., Normal Street and University Avenue. General admission $25, VIP admission $50.

Saturday: Pride Parade, 11 a.m. Begins at University Avenue and Normal Street, proceeds west on University Avenue to Sixth Avenue, turns south on Sixth Avenue, and ends at Balboa Drive and Upas Street. Free.

Saturday and Sunday: Music festival at Balboa Park, Sixth Avenue and Laurel Street. Hours are noon to 10 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. Cost is $20 for weekend pass, children 15 and under free.

For information on other events, go to sdpride.org.

But one prominent activist and co-founder of San Diego’s annual Pride festival and parade, which marks its 40th anniversary this weekend, said it’s time to recognize California’s second-largest city for its LGBT activism.

“Think about it. The first street in America to be named for a gay civil-rights leader is not in San Francisco,” said Nicole Murray Ramirez, a longtime San Diego LGBT activist. “The first Harvey Milk Street is in San Diego.”

Harvey Milk, whose life story was told in the 2008 film “Milk,” became America’s first openly gay man to be elected to public office when he won a seat on San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors in 1978. It took three hard-fought campaigns before Milk was elected, and then less than a year later he and Mayor George Moscone were shot and killed by a former supervisor.

But hundreds of LGBT people have since followed Milk’s political path and been elected to public office, including many in San Diego County.

Ramirez points to that legacy of electing openly gay candidates in saying that San Diego of late has done more to further the cause of equality than that of any other American city, including San Francisco.

Among those he noted are Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, a former San Diego councilwoman; former Sen. Christine Kehoe, a former San Diego councilwoman; former San Diego Councilman Carl DeMaio, now a congressional candidate; San Diego Unified school board President Kevin Beiser; county District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, a former judge; San Diego City Council President Todd Gloria; and San Diego County Supervisor Dave Roberts.

“Going back several years, long before other major cities had done it, we elected a lesbian district attorney, gay and lesbian city council members, gay judges, school board members, and more recently a gay man as school board president and a gay man as county supervisor,” Ramirez said.

Atkins, grand marshal of Saturday’s Pride Parade, is the first San Diegan and the first lesbian to become Assembly speaker. When it comes to which city is doing more to advance LGBT issues, she said there is no contest, no scorekeeping.

In California, the cities of San Diego, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Long Beach and Sacramento “all have dynamic LGBT communities who are pushing the envelope on activism,” she said.

“We’re not in a competition but in a collaboration where we share ideas and best practices and spur each other on to greater success,” Atkins said.

The Human Rights Campaign, based in Washington, D.C., is the nation’s largest LGBT-advocacy organization. It compiles lists each year that rate companies, universities and cities for their LGBT-friendliness and the availability of equal opportunities for gay people.

Four of the California cities Atkins noted — San Diego, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Long Beach — received a perfect 100 on the group’s Municipal Equality Index. Sacramento received a 91.

Thom Senzee is a San Diego freelance writer. He can be reached at thomsenzee@gmail.com and can be followed on Twitter @tsenzee.

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