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social sciences

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San Francisco  
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San Franciscans played a leading role in the successful effort to boycott Florida orange juice that resulted in Bryant's losing her job as spokesperson for the Florida Citrus Growers' Association. They also played an important role in the successful campaign against Proposition 6, the so-called Briggs Initiative, which would have banned gays and lesbians from teaching in California public schools.

AIDS and the Realignment of Political Sensibilities

A July 4, 1981 article in the Center for Disease Control's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report that noted unusual clusters of Kaposi's sarcoma and pneumocystis pneumonia among gay men in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York marked official awareness of an epidemic first labeled GRID (Gay-Related Immune Deficiency), and later renamed AIDS (Auto-Immune Deficiency Syndrome). San Francisco's gay community was among the hardest hit in the early stages of the epidemic, and also played a leading role in developing a response to it.

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The so-called "San Francisco Model," which consisted of education and prevention efforts coupled with a grassroots mobilization to found community-based organizations designed to meet public health needs unaddressed by the government, was quickly adopted by communities throughout the United States and around the world. San Francisco has remained at the forefront of AIDS research, and is home to both the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Center for AIDS Prevention Studies at the University of California-San Francisco medical school.

Dealing with the AIDS epidemic transformed sexual identity politics in San Francisco, and to a limited degree bridged some of the identity based differences that had proliferated in the 1970s. The epidemic bred new forms of activism, represented most notably by ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), and later Queer Nation and the Lesbian Avengers, by requiring a re-examination of the relationship between identity and broader social conditions such as racism and poverty.

The realignment of political sensibilities, coupled with a more complex sense of identity, inspired a new wave of activism among post-baby boomers in the 1990s, which helped reconfigure the community in ways that were more inclusive of bisexual and transgender people. The Bay Area Bisexual Network, Transgender Nation, and the Intersex Society of North America all date from this period. By the mid-1990s, it had become de rigueur to speak not of a gay and lesbian community, but rather of a GLBT community, or even a community of people who were "gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex, , questioning, and allies."

Cultural and Political Power

By the early 1990s, San Francisco's glbtq community, which by some estimates encompasses from 10 to 15% of the city's total population, was a constituency with unprecedented political, economic, and cultural influence. One indication of how well integrated the glbtq community had become in the social fabric of the city was the opening in 1996 of the Hormel Gay and Lesbian Center in San Francisco's New Main Public Library, the first such center in a public library in the United States.

Named for philanthropist (and, later, first openly gay United States Ambassador) James C. Hormel, the center provides access to an impressive collection of books and manuscripts on glbtq history and culture. Roughly one-third of the Hormel collection is on deposit from the GLBT Historical Society, whose vastly larger collection includes runs of more than 3,000 periodical publications, several thousand rare books, 450 collections of personal papers and organizational records, hundreds of oral histories, approximately 80,000 historic photographs, hundreds of thousands of printed ephemera items such as posters, fliers, leaflets, and matchbook covers, and a growing collection of artifacts, original artwork, and textiles. The collections of the GLBT Historical Society, which has ambitious plans to open the world's first museum of GLBT History and Culture, are second in size only to those of the ONE Institute in Los Angeles.

The "lavender sweep" in San Francisco's 1990 city elections brought lesbians Carole Migden and Roberta Achtenberg to the Board of Supervisors, and gay man Tom Ammiano to the Board of Education. Achtenberg went on to Washington to work in the Clinton administration, while Migden became an influential state legislator, and Ammiano later became President of the Board of Supervisors; in 1999 he finished second in the mayoral run-off election.

Other lesbian and gay city supervisors in the 1990s include Leslie Katz, Bevan Dufty, and Mark Leno, who has since risen to prominence both statewide and nationally as a progressive member of the California legislature. The presence of openly gay and lesbian politicians at city hall and in the state house enabled San Francisco to pass landmark legislation such as domestic partner benefits, and civil rights protection and medical benefits for transgender people.

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