Mayor Opens LGBT Heritage Month

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From left: Honorees George Takei and Jewel Thais Williams, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, honoree Karina Samala, and City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl. (City of Los Angeles Heritage Month Celebrations)

CITY NEWS SERVICE

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa kicked off the city’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Heritage Month on June 1, calling 2012 a “pivotal year” for LGBT civil rights.

In a lengthy ceremony during the City Council meeting, Villaraigosa recounted the year’s major victories for the gay community, including the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that Proposition 8, the voter-approved ban on same-sex weddings, was unconstitutional and President Barack Obama’s public support for same-sex marriage.

Villaraigosa also reminded the packed council chamber that Los Angeles was the original battleground for the gay rights movement, recounting the 1967 police raid on the Black Cat gay bar in Silver Lake, which touched off the nation’s first gay and lesbian protest.

“I am proud to lead a city where the diversity of the LGBT community is celebrated like it is here in L.A..” Villaraigosa said.

As part of the celebration, the mayor presented the Spirit, Dream and Hope of Los Angeles awards to three long-time LGBT leaders — Karina Samala, a transgender activist; Jewel Thais-Williams, founder of the Village Health Foundation and owner of the oldest black-owned LGBT nightclub in the country; and actor George Takei.

The honorees expressed optimism about how far LGBT civil rights have come in the U.S.

“The fight is not over,” Thais-Williams told the council. “We’re probably some place in the middle. I want to be here to see it end, so let’s keep it rolling.”

Takei, known for his role as Sulu, helmsman of the USS Enterprise on “Star Trek,” said he is “very optimistic that we will have major change coming very soon in this country, and that we will have equality for all people.”

Villaraigosa also honored three high schools students who produced winning submissions for the LGBT Heritage Month Youth Creative Writing/Video Contest.

As part of the support for the gay and lesbian community, the council voted unanimously to support state legislation that would make California the first state in the nation to ban sexual orientation “therapy” for minors.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), would acknowledge that being lesbian, gay or bisexual “is not a disease, disorder, illness, deficiency, or shortcoming.”

Lieu spoke during the council meeting, calling sexual orientation therapy dangerous “junk science” that often leads to “self-hatred, depression, and in some cases, suicide.”

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