Southern California has a lot to be proud of in its LGBT community, but the reverse is also true: the LGBT community in Southern California can take pride in the region it calls home. After all, we have a rich history of being at the forefront of LGBT rights.
A quick list: Harry Hay founded the Mattachine Society, the first lasting gay rights organization, here in Los Angeles in the winter of 1950. The first publication devoted to LGBT issues — ONE— also originated right here in 1953.
The L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center was the first LGBT organization in the United States to be granted tax-exempt status by the IRS.
And the first openly gay judge ever appointed to the bench —Stephen Lachs — was appointed to the Los Angeles Superior Court in 1979.
We’re also lucky to have a number of leaders in the local LGBT community who have been fighting for years to protect our rights and improve the lives of LGBT people here and nationwide. To recognize some of these people, last week KCET and Union Bank continued a long tradition of highlighting some of our wider community's "Local Heroes" by selecting its inaugural class of LGBT honorees.
The ACLU of Southern California is proud that our own deputy executive director, James Gilliam, was one of the five people chosen. James directs our Seth Walsh Students’ Rights Project, which we launched yesterday. The other nominees included David Damian Figueroa, Vice-President of Communications and Development at MALDEF; Alex Fukui, Co-Chair of API Equality-LA; Karina Samala, Chair of the City of Los Angeles Human Services Commission Transgender Working Group; and Marquita Thomas, President of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. Profiles of all the nominees are available on KCET’s website.
It’s a powerful list of historic firsts – and of hardworking LGBT Pride Month Local Heroes. That’s something Southern California’s LGBT community can be proud of.