By Matt Coker
By R. Scott Moxley
By Charles Lam
By Nick Schou
By Gustavo Arellano
By Gustavo Arellano
By Steve Lowery
By R. Scott Moxley
1981 A fire of suspicious origins damages the current Orange County Gay & Lesbian Community Services Center building on Garden Grove's Euclid Street, forcing a relocation. Today, the center is in a comfy office complex on Garden Grove Boulevard.
NOVEMBER 1981 Disney dance activist Andrew Exler runs for a seat on the Fullerton Joint Union High School District Board of Trustees, becoming one of the first—if not the first—openly gay candidates to seek office in OC. He loses.
1983 Laguna Beach's Bob Gentry becomes the first openly gay person elected mayor of an American city.
1984 The AIDS Services Foundation of Orange County is established.
1984 Former Congressman Bob Dornan, a carpetbagging opportunist and raging homophobe, moves from Santa Monica to Garden Grove in order to run in a district where he thinks his chances will be better. He wins, thoroughly embarrassing OC for the next 14 years before fading into obscurity.
MAY 18, 1984 Disneyland's 27-year-old ban on same-sex dancing is struck down by a jury vote, 11-1. Andrew Exler and Shawn Elliot's dismissal from the park is ruled a violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act. However, their victory means that only Exler and Elliot can dance together—no other same-sex couples. The ban will be lifted outright a year later, when Videopolis, the park's new dance club, opens—partially because of the Exler case, but mostly because with these damn kids today, you just can't tell who's dancing with whom anyhow. By the 1990s, Disney will evolve into one of the most outwardly gay-friendly companies around, with its own gay-employee group.
MAY 10, 1985 Owners of the Garden Grove bar Mac's Landing file a $2.7 million lawsuit against the city, alleging police harassment of their customers. According to the suit, Garden Grove cops have been regularly stationing themselves outside the bar at night, taking photos of people going in and out. Police also employ intimidation tactics, such as making regular walk-throughs several times per hour. "We have had more police in and around Mac's Landing than the local Winchell's Donuts," reads the bar's newsletter. The constant harassment withers the number of gay bars in Garden Grove even further. Today, only two remain.
JUNE 1985 OC businessman Niles Merton becomes publisher of The Advocate.
NOVEMBER 1987 Vincent Chalk, an OC middle school teacher laid off because he has AIDS, wins reinstatement in a landmark wrongful-termination ruling.
1988 The city of Irvine includes sexual orientation as part of an anti-discrimination ordinance. A year later, it will be repealed by voters in a savage, nationally prominent campaign.
1988 The first gay night at Knott's Berry Farm is held.
September 1988Courting the the conservative nut fringe, Vice President George Bush, who is running for president, names anti-gay Congressman Bill Dannemeyer (R-Fullerton) as his personal representative at a national medical conference. Dannemeyer had just said that "AIDS was God's way of punishing gays."
JUNE 1989 The OC Board of Supervisors makes Orange County the only urban area in California to reject plans to outlaw discrimination against people with AIDS in housing, employment and public services.
SEPT. 10, 1989 A clash between attendees at Day 2 of the first Orange County Gay Pride Festival and Parade in Santa Ana's Centennial Park and a gaggle of protesting Christian conservatives results in a mini riot, with six arrests. Lou Sheldon, who tried to stop the fest, says, "Orange County is not the place to flaunt homosexuality. We'll fight to stop the homosexuals from staging another festival, no matter where they go." Didn't work, hon. The fest and parade move the next year to UC Irvine, its present home, and the site of this weekend's 11th annual event.
MAY 1990 ACT UP/Orange County is born.
MARCH 9, 1991 Five activists are arrested for trespassing outside an Anaheim church after attempting to disrupt a Lou Sheldon-run symposium titled "Preservation of the Heterosexual Ethic"—whatever the hell that is.
JUNE 12, 1991 Five members of ACT UP/Orange County leave 170 pounds of steer manure outside the Anaheim headquarters of Lou Sheldon's Traditional Values Coalition.
SEPT. 8, 1991 The first protest by the OC chapter of Queer Nation. Three members, chanting "Stop crucifying queers!" are arrested after disrupting services at Santa Ana's Calvary Chapel, an action taken in response to Calvary members who've been passing out anti-gay literature in West Hollywood.
1992 The city of Laguna Beach begins offering domestic-partnership benefits.
APRIL 1992 The Blade premieres. Though often criticized for lacking heavy news content, OC's only gay publication can still occasionally pull off a great story, such as Denise Penn's May 1995 "Confessions of an El Toro Marine" piece.
OCTOBER 1993 A student-led gay-support group begins meeting on the campus of Fountain Valley High School. The Student Alliance, as it's called, has about 45 members. By January, word—and controversy—gets out, culminating in a meeting of the Huntington Beach Union High School District Board. With police officers standing by, a crowd of 300 argues whether the alliance should be allowed to stay. The board votes 4-1 in favor, citing the district's Equal Access Policy.