It was a bit of history and everyone knew it.
For an hour and a half on Friday morning, June 29, the Los Angeles City Council ceased all other business to honor the LGBT community in conjunction with Gay Pride month. While other minority groups regularly enjoy commemoration ceremonies, this was a first for gays - and the gay-positive council was determined to have fun with it.
Mainstream reporters and camerapeople were flummoxed. They wanted a quote from L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and LAPD Chief Bill Bratton about the averted London bombings. They got it after Villaraigosa and Bratton finished their presentations: Yes, the city was safe - no terrorist threats.
Coordinated by openly gay L.A. City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl and a coterie of openly gay city hall staffers, the presentations were geared to the city's cable TV viewers and posterity - allowing for a mix of statements supporting the LGBT equal rights movement, and personal dramatic statements with off-color joking around.
Rosendahl, who used to be a longtime host of several public affairs shows on Adelphia Cable, talked about coming out late in life after his partner died of AIDS. Bratton talked about the discrimination faced by his lesbian sister in Boston and called up a handful of openly gay cops to stand with him. Good recruitment shot, he hoped. The group included Sgt. Lisa Philiips who received the Medal of Valor for saving her partner and an unconscious Asian woman during the 1992 L.A. riots. She was also the first LAPD liaison to the LGBT community, a post held by Officer Kristi Nielson now.
For many of the older LGBT leaders in the room, the sense of kinship, the openness with which councilmembers shared their personal stories of connection with the community, and especially the comfortable jocularity were an almost giddy reminder of how far gay people have come with this city government.
There was marriage-equality supporter Antonio Villaraigosa - for instance, considered a rising national Latino star and a possible gubernatorial contender - joking about how he missed the Christopher Street West Pride parade for the first time in many years (two days before the parade he announced the separation from his wife). Waving around pictures of Republican City Councilmember Dennise Zine in leather chaps riding a huge motorcycle with Democratic Council president Eric Garcetti riding on back, Villaraigosa asked what had he missed. "They''re beautiful," Villairagos joked. "What happened to me? A threesome."
"No comment, folks," Rosendahl said, as the council chamber erupted in laughter.
When the presentation ceremony ended in the council chambers, the party moved to the August Rotunda, a location used in many films and television shows.
That ceremony, hosted by Villaraigosa Special Assistant Torie Osborn and city AIDS Cooridnator Stephen Simon, lasted another hour. Former City Councilmember and state Assemblymember Jackie Goldberg (who sponsored the state's civil unions-style law) presented an award to Gay & Lesbian Social Services president Terry DeCrescenzo; Eric Bauman, Special Assistant to Lt. Gov John Garamendi honored his partner of almost 25 years, Stonewall Democratic Club president Michael Andraychak; Liliana Perez, Special Assistant to Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez honored Project 10 founder Virginia Uribe and her longtime partner Gail Rolf; Catch One Disco and Village Foundation Healthcare Clinic founder Jewel Thais-Williams honored blogger Jasmyne Cannick, Communications deputy to Assemblymember Mervyn Dymally and co-founder of the National Black Justice Coalition; Williams Institute executive director Brad Sears honored UCLA GLBT Center's Ronni Sanlo; and transgender activist Elizabeth Media of the LA County HIV Commission honored transgender "mother" Kellii Trombacco, formerly of the Minority AIDS Project and now with the Drew Center for AIDS Research.
There are scores of serious problems in Los Angeles - not the least of which is an exploding crystal meth epidemic and homeless LGBT teens. But every now and then it's great to stop and be grateful for living in a city where elected officials like you - they really like you.