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San Francisco's City Hall shows its rainbow colors for Pride © GPS/Flickr
San Francisco's City Hall shows its rainbow colors for Pride © GPS/Flickr

The Most Fascinating Facts About San Francisco's Gay Pride

Picture of Danielle Chemtob
Updated: 9 February 2017
LGBT community members and allies from around the Bay Area and the world show their rainbow stripes as San Francisco’s Pride celebration kicks off.  Check out some of the most interest facts about Pride’s past and present below.

The rainbow flag originated at San Francisco Pride

When Supervisor Harvey Milk became the first openly gay man in the country to be elected to public office, he asked his friend Gilbert Baker to design a symbol of pride for the LGBT community. Baker’s rainbow flag was flown for the first time at the 1978 ‘Gay Freedom Day’ Pride Parade, just months before Milk’s tragic assassination. The flag originally had eight colors, each symbolizing an aspect of the LGBT community: for example, fuchsia stood for sexuality. However, fuchsia dye was not readily available, so the Paramount Flag Company eliminated fuchsia as well as indigo from the flag’s design because they wanted an even six stripes. Today, the flag is flown throughout the city, and serves as a symbol of resilience for LGBT individuals all over the world.


San Francisco’s Pride was one of the first

In June 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay club in New York City, and a protest subsequently followed in what became known as the Stonewall Riot. To mark the one-year anniversary of Stonewall, San Francisco’s LGBT community held its first Pride celebration in Golden Gate Park in 1970. Pride marches were also held that year in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, making the four cities the first to ever host Pride celebrations. To this day, Pride is still held at the end of June to commemorate the Stonewall Riots.


It is the largest Pride celebration in the country

Following the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage in June 2015, over one million people poured into the streets of downtown San Francisco to celebrate the Pride Parade: a record number of attendees for a historic milestone in the battle for LGBT rights. But not only is the number of attendees impressive — with 20 stages and over 200 parade contingents and exhibitors, San Francisco’s Pride celebration is the largest in the nation. The festivities also host a slew of celebrity appearances. In 2015, Pitbull, several stars from the television series Orange is the New Black, and Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom were amongst the featured guests. 

Each year has a different theme

Pride is taking on a political tone this year with the theme ‘For Racial and Economic Justice,’ with Black Lives Matter serving as the community grand marshal. But Pride is also known for being creative with its theme titles. In prior years, themes have included ‘Pride not Prejudice,’ ‘Queerific,’ and, on the festival’s 40th anniversary, ‘Forty and Fabulous.’ Clearly, the Pride board has some serious brainstorming sessions, because ‘For Racial and Economic Justice’ was chosen out of 44 other proposed themes for 2016.

It has taken on various names over the years

Though the celebration is currently known as the Pride, it has held various names over the years. The first Pride celebration in 1970 was a march of 20 to 30 ‘hair faeries’ followed by a ‘gay-in’ at Golden Gate Park. In 1972, the first large-scale parade was held from Polk Street to the Civic Center, and it was dubbed the Christopher Street West parade. In subsequent years, it was the Gay Freedom Day celebration, then the International Lesbian and Gay Freedom Day. Finally in 1995, it was officially named the San Francisco Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Pride Celebration, colloquially known as Pride.


Moscone was the first mayor to attend the celebration

George Moscone, San Francisco’s mayor in the 1970s, and longtime friend of Harvey Milk spoke in front of a crowd of 100,000 at the 1976 Gay Freedom Day Parade. In doing so, he became the first mayor to proclaim his support for the LGBT cause. Unfortunately, in 1978 he and Milk were both assassinated at San Francisco City Hall by former Supervisor Dan White.

There’s an entire organization dedicated to running the celebrations

The San Francisco Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Pride Celebration Committee is a nonprofit entirely charged with putting on Pride festivities. Furthermore, the Pride celebration actually gives back to the community: the organization has awarded over $2.5 million in proceeds from Pride to local nonprofits dedicated to issues like HIV, LGBT rights, cancer, homelessness and animal welfare.