Today, and every day, we stand in solidarity and with love alongside our LGBTQ sisters and brothers. This includes our dear Latina/o/x sisters and brothers who were overwhelmingly represented among the victims at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, site of the latest mass-shooting in this country’s appalling epidemic of gun violence and bigotry.
In this month of PRIDE, we gather in remembrance and celebration to reaffirm our belief in love and social justice as the basis of a better world. We wholeheartedly echo the pledge of GLIDE’s Senior Pastor, Rev. Dr. Karen Oliveto, as we prepare to march arm-in-arm as “an army of lovers.”
PRIDE month always invites us to recall and ruminate on the struggles we’ve lived here in San Francisco and around the world. It has been 53 years – how it flies! – since GLIDE joined the fight on behalf of LGBTQ rights. Some of you will remember, and some of you were with us; many of you were not here yet but will carry the struggle forward. Let’s not forget the strides we have made! Even as we continue to face fear and ignorance, and the discrimination, terror and violence they breed, we stand on hard-won ground with unprecedented change, support and hope on our side.
From GLIDE’s earliest days as a radically inclusive community, we organized against the systemic discrimination, persecution and violence meted out to gay people in our city. In 1964, for example, GLIDE joined with representatives of eight other churches to form the ecumenical Council on Religion and the Homosexual. It was an effort to speak out against religious disenfranchisement and to galvanize a productive dialogue within the community. The following year, GLIDE ministers stood up to the police who raided a dance benefitting that organization.
GLIDE also provided foundational support for the Tenderloin’s queer youth and transgender women who would ultimately form Vanguard – a vitally important seed of gay liberation in San Francisco. In fact, Vanguard’s efforts launched exactly 50 years ago this July, with street protests against police harassment and other actions, including the anti-discrimination picketing campaign against Compton Cafeteria on Taylor Street. In August 1966, this became the site of the infamous Compton Cafeteria Riot, a watershed moment in the gay liberation struggle that predated New York City’s Stonewall uprising by three years!
Also in the mid-1960s, GLIDE’s pastors began performing civil ceremonies for same-sex couples. This was at a time when “gay rights” was barely a concept to the wider society, and this sort of public support and civil action was virtually unheard of in any other organization whether faith-based or secular. But it was the right thing to do, and consistent with GLIDE’s mission to create a radically inclusive, just and loving community mobilized to alleviate suffering and break the cycles of poverty and marginalization.
Ever since that time, we at GLIDE have been blessed to welcome individuals and families from the LGBTQ community into our large and diverse congregation and celebrated gospel choir. In 2003, it was a true honor for all of us at GLIDE when Reverend Williams was asked to serve as a Grand Marshal of the San Francisco Pride Parade, held annually in June to commemorate the Stonewall riots.
For 53 years, we have embraced and worked with our LGBTQ sisters and brothers to oppose and eradicate homophobia and discrimination. We mourn and remember those who have been lost to the violence born of ignorance, fear, self-loathing and hatred. And on their behalf, as well as all who come after, we proudly celebrate the better world we have fought for together, over these many years.
As we march this Sunday in the Pride Parade, we show that this better world is a real one, a living alternative to the smaller and weaker one of bigotry and violence. It continues to grow because together we live it each day—by loving one another, by being ourselves, and by insisting all of us can be proud to be the people we really are and to love the people we love, unconditionally.
With Unconditional Love and Solidarity,
Cecil and Janice
By Reverend Cecil Williams and Janice Mirikitani, Co-Founders of GLIDE and leading supporters of LGBTQ rights for over 50 years.