With more than 400,000 people descending upon 1.9 square miles, Los Angeles Pride is the largest gathering of LGBT people and allies in Southern California. The parade, which has long been the centerpiece of Pride weekend, was the first of its kind in the world when it began in 1970.
It was fast approaching one year since the Stonewall riots of June, 1969, when Reverend Bob Humphries (United States Mission founder), Morris Kight (Gay Liberation Front founder) and Reverend Troy Perry (Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches founder) gathered to plan a commemoration. They settled on a parade down Hollywood Boulevard. But homosexuality was still illegal in the state of California at the time, so securing a permit from the city was no easy task.
Rev. Perry recalled the Los Angeles Police Chief Edward M. Davis telling him, “As far as I’m concerned, granting a permit to a group of homosexuals to parade down Hollywood Boulevard would be the same as giving a permit to a group of thieves and robbers.” Grudgingly, the Police Commission granted the permit, though there were fees exceeding $1.5 million. After the American Civil Liberties Union stepped in, the commission dropped all its requirements but a $1,500 fee for police service. That, too, was dismissed when the California Superior Court ordered the police to provide protection as they would for any other group.
All that negotiation left the team with only two days to throw together a parade before the June 28th anniversary. In other cities, the anniversary was marked with marches, rallies, and demonstrations, but in Los Angeles, the parade was the display of Pride, complete with a float from The Advocate magazine, loaded with men in swimsuits, and a conservative gay group clad in business suits. Soon, there was talk of making it an annual event. It would become the model for Pride celebrations across the nation.
After controversial parade entries in 1971 and 1972, and internal disagreements, the parade went on hiatus in 1973. But it was back in 1974, when pioneering gay filmmaker Pat Rocco came up with the idea for a festival to accompany the parade. The first festival was a carnival with rides, games, food, and information booths held in a Hollywood parking lot at Sunset and Cherokee. But continued LAPD hostility, as well as redevelopment in Hollywood, led Pride to move to what would become the city of West Hollywood in 1984. The parade and festival have found a welcoming home there ever since.
In the 1970s, the focus was largely on sexual liberation. In the 1980s, the community was primarily concerned with empowerment in the face of the emerging HIV/AIDS epidemic. In the 1990s, Pride was a platform for social equality. Marriage equality has been a major issue in the 2000s, along with family and relationship equality.
2010-2013 and beyond
In 2010, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa opened the doors to the Getty House, the official mayor’s residence, for the first-ever LA Pride Garden Party. Then, in 2011, he declared June as LGBT Heritage Month in the city of Los Angeles. That year, the Pride parade also included more than 350 students from the Los Angeles Unified School District, the largest youth group contingent ever. The decade has seen increasing diversity in Pride, with the addition of the Latino Carnival and the Purple Party, Friday night’s soiree devoted to women.