Christopher Street West / L.A. Pride Parade | Los Angeles Conservancy
Hollywood Boulevard east of Highland Avenue, near the parade's starting point. Photo by Laura Dominguez/L.A. Conservancy

Christopher Street West / L.A. Pride Parade

Founded in 1970 and incorporated in 1976, Christopher Street West Association, Inc. is a nonprofit service organization within the LGBTQ community. The organization was responsible for organizing the world's first LGBTQ pride parade, which took place in Los Angeles.

The original intent behind this parade was to celebrate LGBTQ resistance during the 1969 New York Stonewall Riots and to provide an experience in which LGBTQ individuals could feel pride in their identities, see others like themselves in a public setting, and not feel alone.

The first pride parade took place on June 28, 1970, with approximately 1,000 people in attendance. The original route went along Hollywood Boulevard, starting at Hollywood and Highland, moving east to Vine Street, and then back to Hollywood and Highland to finish. The parade route has since moved to West Hollywood.

Since its beginnings in the early 1970s, the parade now known as LA PRIDE has had a mardi gras-like and carnivalesque quality, presenting political platforms and viewpoints in a fun and celebratory manner. Each year, the parade reflects current social and cultural happenings within the LGBTQ community.

Today, the offices of Christopher Street West are located in West Hollywood.

Los Angeles' first pride parade was conceived when Reverend Bob Humphries (founder of the United States Mission), Morris Kight (a founder of the Gay Liberation Front), and Reverend Troy Perry (founder of the Metropolitan Community Church) came together to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Stonewall.

It was at this meeting that Humphries, Kight, and Perry decided to sponsor a parade, which they organized over the course of two days.

The organizers encountered numerous obstacles in securing a permit for the parade, the result of pushback from the Los Angeles Police Commission.

City authorities required organizers to post two bonds, the first for $1 million and the second for $500,000, as well as $1,500 in cash to pay for the police officers who would be dispatched to protect parade attendees. 

The organizers were also required to recruit at least 3,000 participants in order to receive permission to march in the streets. If they failed to meet that number, marchers would have to remain on the sidewalks.

Considering these requirements to be exploitative, Reverend Perry went to see Herbert Slewyn, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The same day, the California Superior Court ordered the Police Commission to issue a permit to the organizers with the receipt of the $1,500 security payment, but that all other requirements be dropped.

When delivering his decision, the judge ruled in the favor of the organizers, arguing that all citizens deserved equal rights and protection under that law. He also ordered law enforcement to protect spectators in addition to marchers. 

Christopher Street West and its successful pride parade in 1970 set a global precedent. Pride parades and celebrations now take place throughout the world, with most during the month of June to coincide with what many recognize as LGBTQ Pride Month.

This moment in LGBTQ history is especially significant because it highlights Los Angeles' fundamental role in shaping LGBTQ rights, politics, and consciousness.

While New York City and San Francisco traditionally have overshadowed Los Angeles in terms of their contributions to the LGBTQ civil rights movement, activists in the greater Los Angeles area were at the forefront of community organizing and awareness building. 

 

 

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