Always Proud, San Francisco: A Brief Gay History
This is a story we’ll all tell 50 years from now: “When I was your age, an iPhone cost $200. And gay people couldn’t get married. Can you imagine?”
Love won. On June 26, 2015 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that marriage equality is a right guaranteed by the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. The decision has been eagerly awaited by the community and city of San Francisco, and the announcement came on the eve of the 45th Pride celebration and parade unfolding in San Francisco that weekend.
As the symbolic heart of gay rights progress for decades, San Francisco has so many reasons to be proud of this moment. The first gay bar. The first gay Pride parade. The first same sex issued marriage license. So many “firsts” in this civil rights struggle have taken place right here.
We’ve created a little timeline to commemorate some of these milestones. We’ve come a long way and we can’t wait to see what comes next.
- 1908: First Gay Bar in SF
The Dash was the first “notorious” gay bar in San Francisco. The city may have had gay bars before The Dash, but none was as visible. Waiters cross-dressed and for $1 (a huge sum in those days) would perform sex acts in nearby booths. It was shut down by the vice squad almost as soon as it opened, after a high-profile judge was linked to bar, leading to a reform movement that helped shutter the equally infamous Barbary Coast.
- 1955: First U.S. Lesbian Organization
San Francisco is the home of the first lesbian organization in the U.S., The Daughters of Bilitis.
- 1964: Gay Captial of America
Life Magazine links San Francisco as the “Gay Capital of America” in an article “Gay San Francisco”
- 1966: First U.S. Gay Community Center & More
The Society for Individual Rights opens the first gay community center in the U.S. The National Planning Conference of Homophile Organizations holds the first national convention of gay and lesbian groups in San Francisco. The world's first transgender organization, the National Transsexual Counseling Unit, was established in San Francisco in response to the Compton's Cafeteria Riot that occured in August.
- 1970: First Gay Pride Parade
On June 27, 20 to 30 people march down Polk Street from Aquatic Park to City Hall in San Francisco's first gay rights march. A "gay-in'' the next day in Golden Gate Park draws many more people. This is the start of the Gay Freedom Day Parade, also known as Pride.
- 1972: First Openly Gay Bar in SF
With open windows, Twin Peaks tavern opens as the first openly gay bar in San Francisco. Before, gay bars were required to install blackened windows or no windows at all.
- 1977: Milk & Tales of The City
Harvey Milk is elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Milk is the first openly gay elected official in California history. Tales of the City, written by Armistead Maupin, is published. The series of novels has won numerous awards, including Gay, Lesbian & Bisexual Book Award in 2001 and Best Gay Read Award in 2006.
- 1978: Rainbow Flag Designed In SF
The first rainbow flag was designed by Gilbert Baker, a San Francisco artist, in response to calls by activists for a symbol for the community. Baker used the five-striped “Flag of the Race” as his inspiration, and designed a flag with eight stripes: pink, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.
- 1982: First Gay Games
First Gay Games draws more than 1,350 athletes from 10 countries to compete in 17 sports at Kezar Stadium.
- 1994: First World AIDS Day
First official observance of World AIDS Day in the AIDS Memorial Grove located in San Francisco’s verdant Golden Gate Park.
- 2004: First Same-Sex Marriage Licenses Issued
First same-sex marriage licenses issued. Long-time San Franciscans Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon (co-founders of the Daughters of Bilitis) became the first same-sex couple to be legally married in the U.S.
- 2015: U.S. Supreme Court Legalizes Marriage Equality
The 45th annual Pride parade takes place following a historical 5-4 Supreme Court vote to legalize same-sex marriage across the U.S.
The 49th Annual San Francisco Pride Parade & Celebration is June 29 - 30, 2019. Themed Generations of Resistance, this year's parade celebrates and honors the spirit of those who have fought, and continue to fight, for the visibility and equality of the LGBTQ community. For more information on this year's event, including profiles of the parade honorees and grand marshals, and for a schedule of official events, visit sfpride.org.