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social sciences

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Los Angeles  
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CSW's first president was Sharon Cornelison and the longest-serving board member Sharon Tobin. After risqué floats appeared in the 1971 and 1972 events, no parade was held in 1973. Hollywood became less friendly to the glbtq community, and in 1979 the parade moved to West Hollywood. A festival, the idea of erotic filmmaker Pat Rocco, was added in 1974. The organization now operates on a million dollar budget with major corporate support and draws well in excess of 100,000 people to the Pride events.

As in other cities, the GLF soon dissolved, but unlike in other places, the leaders of the Los Angeles chapter moved quickly to make lasting contributions to the glbtq social fabric of the city. In 1971 John Platania wrote the plan for and Kight and Don Kilhefner and others established the Gay Community Services Center in two declining Victorian houses in an area between downtown and MacArthur Park.

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In 1974 the Center (now usually called only that) became the nation's first organization with the word "gay" incorporated in its name to be awarded federal 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. It continued to grow, move, and adapt until it has become the largest gay and lesbian organization in the world. Now with an annual budget of $33 million, the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center offers--in three major locations--the widest array of services to glbtq persons available anywhere.

The Center did not, however, incorporate the word "lesbian" in its title until 1980. Because they felt excluded, in the 1970s women organized separately in Los Angeles. The Gay Women's Service Center, located on Glendale Boulevard (the old Edendale area) was founded in 1971 by Del Whan from the GLF. It was probably the first lesbian community center anywhere. A flyer notes it was "established to meet a variety of social and personal needs of gay women, particularly women who are young or hesitant about their gayness."

At the same time Jeanne Córdova established The Lesbian Tide, a journal that united the interests of feminists and lesbians. For African-American women and others, Jewel Thais-Williams founded Jewel's Catch One disco in 1973, a venue that still serves as a meeting, organizing, and fundraising space for women of color and others, such as for Carl Bean's Unity Fellowship Church (established 1985). In 1976 Jinx Beers established Lesbian News (LN), a magazine that is still published and is now the longest-running national lesbian publication.

Unique to Los Angeles was the Woman's Building, also first established near MacArthur Park in 1973; it moved later to an industrial building north of downtown and Chinatown. Founded by three women, one a lesbian, art historian Arlene Raven, the Woman's Building provided education and a place for women to create apart from men and institutions controlled by the patriarchy. In the period from 1973 to 1991, it sponsored classes and produced performance pieces, art exhibitions, and a journal, Chrysalis. Many lesbians felt free to explore their identities in this supportive space.

Psychologist and Human Potential Movement leader Betty Berzon was on the board of the Center when it experienced its greatest schism, between more conservative members and younger radicals, and helped heal the rift. In the later 1970s Berzon founded what would become Southern California Women for Understanding, a group of middle-class professional lesbians that still exists.

In the 1970s California and Los Angeles became increasingly liberal. In 1973 Los Angeles elected its first African-American mayor, Tom Bradley, a moderate-to-liberal politician even though he emerged from the LAPD.

In 1975 California's laws were repealed, largely through the influence of assemblyman (later Speaker) Willie Brown of San Francisco.

In May 1976 the Los Angeles City Council banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in civic employment.

Other political gains were made in Los Angeles when in 1977 affluent members of the gay and lesbian community formed the Municipal Elections Committee of Los Angeles (MECLA), the nation's first gay political action committee. Activist members included lobbyist David Mixner and realtor Gayle Wilson.

Not all went well in the 1970s. Although Mayor Bradley declared a gay pride week in 1976, police attacked the Christopher Street West parade that same year.

In 1978 a citizens' initiative known as the Briggs Amendment, which sought to ban gay men and lesbians from teaching in the public schools, made it to a state-wide ballot as Proposition 6. This was a dubious first, the first time American voters faced a statewide gay rights issue. The discriminatory initiative was fought strongly by gay and lesbian groups across the state and was one of the first occasions that gay men and lesbians came together politically after the period of separatism. Shortly before the election, the Union of Lesbians and Gay Men was formed in Los Angeles. The initiative was broadly defeated.

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