By Michael Benninger
On June 28, 1969, at nearly 1:30 in the morning, eight New York City police officers entered Greenwich Village's Stonewall Inn, then the nation's largest gay bar. The cops weren't there for the dancing or drink specials.
In those days, bars could not legally serve alcohol to gay people, or even allow them to dance with one another. law officers regularly raided the stonewall inn and clubs like it in the '60s. But on that June night, gay and lesbian patrons fought back, igniting the gay liberation movement in a rebellion now known as the Stonewall Riots.
During the next two years, gay rights groups formed across the country and throughout the western world. Commemorative Stonewall marches moved from city to city, reaching San Diego in 1974. that year, a few dozen people, including active-duty military, participated in the city's first march, many of them wearing bags over their heads for fear of persecution. At the time, the law permitted the state of California to lobotomize gay people; firing them from their jobs was a foregone conclusion.
Forty years later, times have changed, and with them many americans' attitudes. Our city's Stonewall demonstration has grown into San Diego's Pride Parade , an affair of colossal proportions and one of the region's largest events.
"Last year, even with the help of city officials, we were unable to fully count the number of people who attended the parade," says Fernando Zweifach López Jr., Public Affairs Director for San Diego LGBT Pride. "It's estimated, that somewhere between 300,000 and 400,000 people attended."
Aside from being a marquee event in the LGBT community, San Diego's Pride Parade is a force on the forefront of the culture's progress.
"Our event was the first of its kind to gain full approval from the department of defense to allow servicemembers to wear uniforms in the parade," says López, "as well as the first pride parade in the country to have a children's garden, now in its 22nd year."
An exciting first for this year's pride festivities is the involvement of NASA, which is showing support for the aeronautics agency's own gay men and women by hosting an interactive, 1,200-square-foot exhibit called the Destination Station.
"When NASA reached out to us, we were excited and thought it was a great fit," says López.
From Stonewall to the space program, San Diego's LGBT community has come a long way. For an out-of-this-world good time, celebrate and foster the city's cultural diversity at this year's pride.
Out & About: Pride Weekend Event Highlights
7/18: Spirit of Stonewall Rally and Flag Raising
Location: Normal St. and University Ave.,
Honor the LGBT leaders and luminaries working hard to preserve the community's progress and meet new challenges. Speakers include actress/activist Laverne Cox, Human Relations Commissioner Nicole Murray-Ramirez, State Assemblymember Toni Atkins and City Council President Todd Gloria.
7/18: Pride of Hillcrest Block Party
Location: Normal St. and University Ave., Hillcrest
Admission: $25-$50; cabanas for $1,500
It's TGI-Prideday as this third annual event transforms Hillcrest into a huge dance party, headlined by Orange is the New Black actress and musician Taryn Manning.
7/19: Pride 5K Run/Walk 2014
Location: University Ave. and Centre St., Hillcrest
Race entry: $35
This 5K run/walk produced by Front Runners and Walkers San Diego is sanctioned and certified by the USA Track & Field association and features computerized results. Pride runners precede the parade, starting and finishing the race at University Avenue and Centre Street.
7/19: Pride Parade
Location: University Ave. & Normal St., Hillcrest
Led by Grand Marshall and California State Assemblymember Toni Atkins, this splashy promenade is one of the country's largest events, attracting upwards of 300,000 revelers. Colorful costumes and fabulous floats celebrate diversity on this 1.1-mile route that runs west on University Avenue from Normal Street to Sixth Avenue, then southbound on Balboa Drive to Laurel Street.
7/19-20: Pride Music Festival
Location: Marston Point, Balboa Park
Admission: $20 for two-day pass
This year's festival features 10 entertainment zones showcasing a variety of musical acts (country, hip-hop, latin, soul/R&B, EDM, house, choral music, drum circles) plus comedy and cabaret performances.