Santa Cruz Good Times

Wednesday
Oct 22nd
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Gay Santa Cruz: Then and Now

John_LairdAs we prepare to celebrate this year’s Gay Pride, now the largest annual political gathering in Santa Cruz County, it’s hard to believe that the first marches in the mid-1970s required security to protect the gutsy few out Santa Cruzans who walked down Pacific Avenue.

It was a different time locally and nationally.  Locally in the late 1970s, the university enrollment was at just over 5,000, Downtown Santa Cruz was dead after six, the Miss California Pageant would still call Santa Cruz home for another few years, and the board of supervisors and city council had conservative majorities.

 

Across the country it was illegal to be gay in most states. The movie Milk showed police hassling San Francisco gay bar customers. At the time I was elected to the Santa Cruz City Council 30 years ago this coming November, there were but about 10 openly gay elected officials throughout the United States.

The first public stirrings of the local gay community happened at both UC Santa Cruz and Cabrillo College. Lesbian and gay counseling and support groups were organized.

The first Gay Pride celebration was in 1975; the struggle to get a Gay Pride resolution passed at the board of supervisors was a major public controversy. The first actual parade happened in 1976, and in the first years the parade brought out anti-gay demonstrators.

A long organizing campaign against the 1978 “Briggs Initiative” to outlaw openly gay teachers led to CUDBI—the Community United Against the Briggs Initiative. Gay beach volleyball began shortly thereafter.

The undercover arrest of gay men entrapped by Capitola police officers in 1980, and the subsequent publishing of the names and home addresses of those arrested in local newspapers, led to more than 200 people protesting the actions at a Capitola City Council meeting.

Santa Cruz County was the first county in the nation to adopt gay non-discrimination for its own employees in 1975, and the City of Santa Cruz and Metropolitan Transit district’s domestic partners benefits programs were among the first in the nation in the mid-1980’s. I had my own 15 minutes of fame as one of the first three openly gay mayors elected in the United States in 1983.

Gay bars were an integral part of the culture in this time. The Dragon Moon, Mona’s Gorilla Lounge, the Blue Lagoon, Faces and others were among the few places gay men and women could meet openly in public.

The HIV epidemic shook the local and national gay community. The Santa Cruz AIDS Project was a local response to the epidemic and at one point had as many as 600 regular volunteers. Lesbians and gay men, who had struggled over issues of equity in the 1970s, were bound together by the epidemic in the 1980s and 1990s.

Fast-forwarding to now, there are no exclusive gay bars left in the area. We have two openly gay school board members now, but there has been no fanfare because it is not as unique as it once would have been. Our county clerk and board of supervisors were in the forefront of the fight for marriage equality.

There’s not a walk of life in Santa Cruz County that doesn’t have an open LGBT person somewhere in its organization. There are hundreds of children of gay parents in the county.

And while it was a few hearty activists that organized gay pride in the early years, the Diversity Center—a thriving center of the LGBT community—has taken on the responsibility for making sure the celebration happens each year, and gets credit for making it happen whether it makes money or not.

I love to tell the story from a few years ago at the parade where I was getting ready to ride in an open convertible as the area’s state legislator.  Ahead of me a few contingents was the medical marijuana float with a giant joint puffing smoke as the float went down the street. The sheriff and his top deputies had been placed near that float in the parade’s order—and they walked back and asked if they could march by me during the parade.

It was the perfect circle. Thirty years ago, security had to protect the parade in more difficult times. Thirty years later, I had become the safe port in the political storm. That’s progress. There will be a lot to celebrate this year.

 


John Laird is a former Mayor of Santa Cruz, was a member of the California legislature, and now serves in Gov. Jerry Brown’s Cabinet as Secretary of Natural Resources.

 

Comments (2)Add Comment
...
written by josephus, December 26, 2013
Mona`s Gorilla Lounge was located in the building that is now Moe`s Alley & even though I used to go there & my Grandmother made Mexican food to sell there at times I am not recalling the owners name! He also owned 2 Gay bars before Mona`s, both located @ Beach Street near Boardwalk. They never took off business-wise so he ended up closing them all!
...
written by Elliot, October 01, 2012
Love gay Santa Cruz . Where did Monas Grilla Lounge use to Located at?

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Santa Cruz Restaurant Week

A huge part of Santa Cruz Restaurant Week has always been about offering a great dining experience for an affordable price. For some locals, the $25 flat-rate cost has provided the opportunity (or the excuse!) to try new spots, and indulge in Santa Cruz fine dining in a way they might have thought too pricey before.

 

Scorpio Sun, New Moon Eclipse, Mercury Direct

The Sun enters Scorpio’s mysteries Thursday under a new moon and partial solar eclipse (something essential has come to an end, its purpose completed). In Scorpio we harbor secrets, are devoted to something deep, dark and hidden. Sometimes it’s ourselves. We can bring great suspect to our assessment of others. Scorpio is the scorpion, the serpent and the eagle—three levels of development. As the serpent we take shelter in our beliefs. Sometimes we bite (or sting). The eagle vanquishes old beliefs through its sharp intellect, soaring high in the air, seeking to understand through perspective. Understanding releases us from the bondage of fear. The eagle is like the mother soothing feelings of mistrust, offering protection. Knowledge does this, too.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Docs Without Borders

United Nations Association Film Festival showcases documentaries from around the globe
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Back Porch

Austin Kaye on backyard dinners and why it’s his favorite time of year to be a chef

 

What’s the most outrageous situation you ever saw at a restaurant?

Damani Thomas, Santa Cruz, Chef/Owner

 

Wine Lust

The Spanish Godello grape, plus arancinis, tender butter lettuce and pork schnitzel at Soif

 

What artist or artists participating in the encore weekend of Open Studios should not be missed?

Santa Cruz | Teacher