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Los Angeles’ first Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Heritage Month begins

Outside City Hall, a string of balloons hovered in the muggy June air. They were red, yellow, green, purple and blue.

The rainbow theme was fitting: On Friday, Los Angeles officials launched the city’s first Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Heritage Month, which will include an art exhibit at City Hall and events in conjunction with the annual Gay Pride celebration next weekend.

For years, Los Angeles has honored other groups — African Americans, Latinos, Asian Pacific Islanders — with monthlong education campaigns.

Councilman Bill Rosendahl said the designation of June as LGBT Heritage Month is important because gay people, like other minorities, “have an identity that needs to be clearly appreciated.” In 2005, Rosendahl was the first openly gay candidate to run for and be elected to the City Council.

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He was beaming Friday as he stood during the council meeting with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck and other officials, to honor several lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Angelenos.

For nearly two hours, Rosendahl and his colleagues talked about gay rights, gay representation on the council, AIDS and much more, occasionally sharing personal stories that drew laughter — and at times surprise — from an audience that included many LGBT rights activists.

At one point, Rosendahl thanked Councilman Dennis Zine for once giving him a ride on the back of his Harley-Davidson during a gay pride festival in West Hollywood. Zine, he noted, wore leather and chaps.

At another moment, he teased Councilwoman Jan Perry for having too many gay male friends. Perry sometimes brings gay friends along as dates to events. She is also, she told the council, the godmother of a child who has two fathers.

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In one unusually colorful anecdote, Councilman Bernard Parks stood up and relayed the way in which Rosendahl told him he was gay. It was 1997, and Parks had just been appointed police chief. Rosendahl, then a television show host, called Parks to congratulate him and to ask about a rumor he had heard.

Rosendahl said he had heard that Parks and then-Mayor Richard Riordan were gay and were dating, and that that is how Parks had gotten his job. Rosendahl said he didn’t mind that Parks was gay because he was gay too.

The rumor was false. But it so surprised the new police chief that the news that Rosendahl was gay hardly seemed shocking, Parks said.

It wasn’t all storytelling though. The council on Friday passed several resolutions backing state and federal legislation that calls for LGBT equality, including a state bill that would add questions about sexual orientation and gender identity to state demographic surveys.

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The meeting took a somber turn when officials noted the 30th anniversary — this week — of the first known AIDS cases. In 1995, Rosendahl lost his partner of 14 years, Christopher Lee Blauman, to complications of AIDS.

Rosendahl said the anniversary, along with the ongoing battle for gay civil rights, made Friday’s occasion “bittersweet.”

“It’s all about civil and human rights which we don’t have,” he said. “We still fight.”

The message resonated in a song performed during the meeting. Members of Vox Femina, a female choral group, beat a drum and sang loudly, their voices filling the council chambers.

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“We’re going to keep walking forward,” they sang. “Never walking back.”

kate.linthicum@latimes.com


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