It Started With An Answering Machine...

In the early 1970’s, our world was a very different place. Being “out” simply wasn’t an option for many. Just being a member of the LGBT community could be dangerous. You could be fired, denied housing and worse, and there was no one to turn to for help.

The San Diego LGBT Center began as an answering machine. The answering machine was a twenty-four hour hotline — people who needed military or LGBT counseling could call the number, leave a message and Jess Jessop or one of a small group, named “the Planning Committee,” would call them back. The initial 1972 planning committee for what would become The Center for Social Services, Inc. included Patricia Byers, Thom Carey, Patricia Clutchy, Peggy Heathers, Jess Jessop, Clint Johnson, Bernie Michels, George Murphy, Jerry Peterson, Gary Rees, John Senter, Jerry White, John Eberly, Gary Gulley and Cynthia Lawrence. This group knew that the LGBT community needed more than phone counseling, and worked to open an organization that could provide for the community’s particular education, health and social needs.

Incorporated as a 501c3 in 1973, just as the American psychological and psychiatric communities removed homosexuality from the diagnostic manuals as a disorder, The Center provided community members with professional, culturally-affirmative mental health services and continues to provide those services today.

We are proud of the history of The Center’s service. From an answering machine in a borrowed closet that served as a lifeline for those frightened, lonely and looking for compassionate connection to today, one of the largest and most vibrant LGBT community centers in the nation. The incredible dedication of more than 1,200 volunteers, 10-board members and over 55 staff who spend every day attempting to serve the full diversity of our community – men, women, youth, seniors, transgender and non-binary individuals, families, LGBT Latino community members and their families, and those living with HIV – makes it possible for us to provide more than 87,300 service visits each year.

The Center's Organizational History

In the small town that was San Diego, a group of 20 or 30 men and women envisioned a different world and set in motion the structures that would help us realize that dream.

■ The initial 1971-1972 Planning Committee for what would ultimately become The Center for Social Services, Inc. included Patricia Byers, Thom Carey, Patricia Clutchy, Peggy Heathers, Jess Jessop, Clint Johnson, Bernie Michels, George Murphy, Jerry Peterson, Gary Rees, John Senter, Jerry White, John Ebererly, Gary Gulley and Cynthia Lawrence. The Chair of the Planning Committee was Bernie Michels.
■ Thirty years ago their vision and activism helped give birth to quintuplets: the Imperial Court de San Diego, MCC-San Diego, Dignity San Diego, The San Diego LGBT Community Center and San Diego LGBT Pride.
■ Began with a telephone answering machine in Jess Jessop’s home


■ Jess Jessop acts as executive director, taking over from Bernie Michels, who had been the chair of the Planning Committee.
■ First San Diego LGBT Community Center opened on 2250 “B” Street


■ Incorporated late 1973-1974
■ Gary Rees acts as executive director of The Center
■ San Diego Pride begins at the Center.

1975 – 1977

■ First paid executive director, also first woman – Jeri Dilno.

1979 – 1980

■ 1980 — According to Lambda Archives materials The Center moved from its original location to 1447 North 30th Street, also in Golden Hill.


Board Members: Al Best, Pat Byers, Thom Carey, Pat Clutchey, Jeri Dilno, John Eberly, Peggy Heathers, Jess Jessop, Clint Johnson, Don Johnson, Bernie Michels, George Murphy, Nicole Murray Ramirez, Jerry Peterson, Gary Rees, John Senter, Frank Stiriti, Cynthia Lawrence, Bridget Wilson, Jim Woodward.

Community Context:

March on Washington. In what LGBT advocates considered an historic first, LGBT people from throughout the country came to the nation’s capital on Oct. 14, 1979 for the nation’s first National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. There were three more LGBT Washington marches that followed in subsequent years: 1987, 1993, and 2000.


Center Notes:

■ Jeri Dilno Board Chair. 
■ Mel Merrill, Fred Acheson, Jess Jessop, Gary Rees, Lois Lippold & Mary Jones formed real estate partnership to buy real estate for The Center.  
■ Moved to 5th Avenue & Robinson; 3780 Fifth Avenue #2. The Center remained at that address for 12 years. 
■ Board vote on a name change regarding the addition of Lesbian (name was changed to San Diego Gay and Lesbian Community Center) created much community discussion and a number of disagreements.


Community Context:

■ HIV/AIDS then called GRID (Gay Related Immune Deficiency) or ARC (AIDS Related Complex) begins to be diagnosed in gay/bisexual men; men begin to die within 6-12 months of diagnosis. By the time protease inhibitors (Highly Active Retroviral Treatment, HAART) are available in 1996, 5,500 men who have sex with men (MSM) will have died in San Diego alone.


Center Notes:

■ Dr. Lois Gail: Began professional mental health services and one of the nation’s first LGBT mental health services intern training programs. Dr. Kurt Buis is one of the first interns. 
■ John McConnell served as executive director
■ Directors/Supervisors across the next decade include: Dr. Lois Gail, Dr. Alan Brown, Dr. Phil Rector, Dr. Jeffrey Leiphardt, Dr. David Blasband


■ Board Chair: Leslie Horn; Joe Mayer, secretary/treasurer. 
■ Board has six members: Leslie Horn, Joe Mayer, Al Best, Tom Denney, Michael Gandy, Nancy Goodrich
■ Pamela Ware, MSW : executive director
■ Annual Budget = $73,018

Center Notes:

■ Seven paid staff; 40 volunteers
■ HIV/AIDS continues to be primary community concern; death toll rising in community
■ AIDS Response Programs begins at The Center including HIV Mental Health Services and the Holistic AIDS Response Program (HARP)
■ City of San Diego granted first CDBG social service funds ($48,000)

Community Context:

■ Activists familiar with the Oct. 11, 1987 2nd National March on Washington say that while it called for some of the same LGBT rights advances as the 1979 march, it was prompted by two major developments – the widespread belief that the Reagan Administration had failed to adequately respond to the AIDS epidemic and the 1986 U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding state sodomy laws, which made it a crime for consenting adults of the same gender to engage in sexual relations.


■ Scott Fulkerson hired as executive director


Center Notes:

■ Walk for Life begins (precursor to AIDS Walk San Diego which begins in 1991)
■ Lesbian Health Project begins at The Center


Center Notes:

■ July 1990 — The Center purchased 3916 Normal Street building
■ City Council allocated $600,000 in CDBG funds for purchase of Normal Street (money primarily came from John Hartley in District 3) + $450,000 financing by sellers (secured note). This note was refinanced in 1993 for a loan total of $650,000 ($450,000 to pay off original note, $150,000 to finish renovation).

Community Context:

■ Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act was enacted by Congress in 1990. It has been amended and reauthorized four times in 1996, 2000, 2006, and 2009.
■ November 29, 1990 the San Diego HIV San Diego Planning Council was established


Center Notes:

■ AIDS Walk San Diego begins at The Center
■ Common Ground (youth program) begins at The Center
■ Anti-Violence Project to address hate crimes begins at The Center
■ Mom’s N’ Me & Dads Too (family program) begins at The Center


■ Board Chairs: Leslie Horn & Scot Wrede; Joe Mayer, secretary/treasurer 
■ Board has seven members: Leslie Horn, Scot Wrede, Joe Mayer, Joe Colombo, Jeff Palmer, John Guinn, Phyllis Harland
■ Executive Director: Scott Fulkerson
■ Annual Budget = $1,026,992

Center Notes:

■ October 1992, completed renovation and moved in to 3916 Normal Street Building
■ Karen Marshall, administrative director
■ Jeff Leiphardt:, clinical director of HIV Mental Health programs
■ Mayor Maureen O’Conner and chief of staff Benjamin F. Dillingham III made the renovation of this building possible by securing labor and materials as a donation from the Old Mission Beach Athletic Club
■ Ben Dillingham, Ed St. de Ville, Michael Portantino and others co-signed a refinance note that ultimately made the building viable.


■ Board Chairs: Leslie Horn & Scot Wrede; Joe Mayer, treasurer, Joe Columbo, secretary
■ Board has six members: Leslie Horn, Scot Wrede, Joe Mayer, Joe Colombo, Jeff Palmer, Jeri Dilno
■ Executive Director Scott Fulkerson; until December 1993 then Karen Marshall assumes the role
■ Dr. Jeff Leiphardt, clinical director
■ Annual Budget = $926,821

Community Context:

■ April 25, 1993 — The third National March on Washington — The major theme of the 1993 march and its large rally at the site of the U.S. Capitol was the call to “lift the ban” on lesbian and gay servicemembers. Among those playing a visible role in the march were gay and lesbian veterans, some of whom wore their military uniforms. Another message delivered at the march was strong opposition to Colorado’s Amendment 2, a ballot measure passed by voters that banned cities and counties in the state from adopting anti-discrimination laws protecting gays and lesbians.

■ November 2, 1993 — Christine Kehoe was elected to the San Diego City Council to represent, District 3, becoming the first openly LGBT elected official in San Diego. She was re-elected to the City Council in 1996. Kehoe was subsequently elected to the California State Assembly on November 7, 2000 and re-elected on November 5, 2002. Assemblymember Christine Kehoe was elected to be Speaker pro Tempore, the second highest-ranking position in the Assembly; making her the second woman ever – and the first woman from San Diego – to be elected. She was then elected to the California State Senate, November 2, 2004, and was re-elected in on November 4, 2008. She retired from public office in 2012.


■ Board Chair: Leslie Horn and Joe Colombo, Lois Wunderley, secretary, Debra Dold, treasurer
■ Board consists of 13 members: Leslie Horn, Joe Colombo, Scot Wrede, Lois Wunderley, Debra Dold, Robert Barrett, Doug Fisher, Joe Mayer, Norris Nagao, Reuel Olin, Carolina Ramos, Anne Wilson, Lee Landen
■ Annual Budget = $1,315,395

Center Notes:

■ 1994 Pride secures its own 501 (c) (3) status, but remains at The Center until 1998. 
■ The Center issues first official Annual Report
■ Richard Sager is director of development


■ Board Chairs: Anne Wilson & Robert Barrett, Ph.D.; Debra Dold, treasurer; Reuel Olin, secretary
■ Board has 11 members (four are new this year): Anne Wilson, Bob Barrett, Debra Dold, Reuel Olin, Lee Landen, Joe Colombo, Doug Fisher, Norris Nagao, Helen Baker, Sharon Silverstein
■ Executive Director: Karen Marshall
■ Annual Budget = $1,774,505

Center Notes:

■ 22 paid staff
■ Former Center Board Chair Leslie Horn becomes director of development
■ Began fund raising for North County Center
■ Began planning capital campaign for building purchase or building renovation/addition
■ BINGO begins
■ Karibu, an HIV/AIDS program targeted to African-American MSM, begins
■ Fiscally sponsored programs include: AIDS Walk San Diego; CARING; Spectrum; Mom’s N Me & Dads Too


■ Board Chairs: Robert Barrett & Helen Baker; Brad Jones, treasurer, Linda Perine, secretary 
■ Board has 12 members: Bob Barrett, Helen Baker, Brad Jones, Linda Perine, J.C. Allen, Hillary Cook, Debra Dold, Douglas Fisher, Reuel Olin, Marci Siegel, Paul Turro, Anne Wilson
■ Executive Director: Karen Marshall
■ Annual Budget = $1,871,692

Center Notes:

■ North County Center opens at 150 Val Preda San Marcos; Center now has two sites
■ Center has 42 paid staff (doubled in only one year)
■ Center receives United Way grant for non-HIV counseling services 
■ Heads Up! HIV Prevention program begins
■ Protease inhibitors introduced and deaths from AIDS begin to drop dramatically
■ Fiscally sponsored programs include: AIDS Walk San Diego, Christie’s Place, Karibu, Athletes in Motion, San Diego Women’s Chorus, Spectrum, CARING – AIDS grant Program


■ Board Chairs: Reuel Olin & Helen Baker, John Hinojos, treasurer; Hillary Cook, secretary
■ Board has 11 members: Reuel Olin, Helen Baker, Robert Barrett, Brad Jones,  John Hinojos,  J.C. Allen, Hillary Cook, Marci Siegel, Paul Turro, Peggy Walkush, James Ziegler
■ Executive Director: Karen Marshall
■ Annual Budget = $2,000,798, Budget increased to 2 million

Center Notes:

■ Ryan White Funding becomes fully available for HIV/AIDS programs
■ Park Boulevard office opened due to lack of space for programs; Center now has three sites
■ Challenge Ride project
■ HIV Prevention: Project SexWyze begins; Project Unity begins
■ Creating Change Conference held in San Diego
■ AIDS Walk San Diego leaves The Center
■ Christie’s Place leaves The Center
■ CARING – HIV/AIDS grants leaves The Center

Community Context:

■ AIDS Foundation collapses and closes its doors


Board Chairs: Reuel Olin & Helen Baker; Brad Jones, treasurer; John Hinojos, secretary 
Board has 11 members: Reuel Olin, Helen Baker, Brad Jones, John Hinojos, J.C. Allen, Robert Barrett, Hillary Cook, Ernest Green, Marci Siegel, John O. White, James Ziegler
Executive Director: Karen Marshall
Annual Budget = $2,748,784

Center Notes:

■ 47 paid staff
■ Scott Thompson becomes director of programs
■ 25th Anniversary, Center’s Gala (chair = Nicole Murray Ramirez)
■ Pride leaves The Center to open their own offices
■ Bridges (HIV prevention program begins)
■ HIV Prevention programs continue to expand with award of Centers for Diesease Control (CDC) grants
■ Relationship, Violence, Treatment & Intervention Program receives credentialing from probation department and becomes one of first same-sex domestic violence programs in the nation (Program coordinator = Dr. Heather Berberet)
■ Capital campaign to finance renovation of the new building begins


Center Notes:

■ Moved to 3909 Centre Street in July 1999 
■ James Ziegler elected Center board chair
■ Art Thompson named interim executive director


■ Board Chair: Jim Ziegler; Vice-Chair, Wiiliam Larkin
■ Board: Ziegler, Larkin, Espin, LeSar, Scarpaci, Nolan
■ Art Thompson chosen by selection committee as executive director
■ Annual Budget: $3,000,000
■ Jennifer LeSar elected Center board chair for 2001

Center Notes:

■ Shawn Ingram was hired as director of development in 2000 and served in that role until 2005.
■ Center opens Hillcrest Youth Center (August 2000: initiative begun by Jim Zians, Richard Burhenne and developed by Dr. Heather Berberet & Scott Gross) 
■ Center now has four sites

Community Context:

■ April 30, 2000 — The fourth national LGBT march on Washington, named the Millennium March on Washington for Equality, drew hundreds of thousands of LGBT people and their supporters
■ Toni G. Atkins was elected to San Diego City Council, District 3 on November 7, 2000 and re-elected in November 2004. Atkins, was then elected to California State Assembly on November 2, 2010, and was elected to Speaker of the California State Assembly, March 17, 2014, making her the first San Diegan and first lesbian to be Speaker. She was subsequently elected to California State Senate, November 8, 2016, and was elected President pro Tempore of the California State Senate on March 21, 2018, making her the first woman, first San Diegan, and first lesbian to be President pro Tem of the California Senate.


■ Board Chair: Jennifer LeSar, Vice-Chair, Bill Larkin, secretary, Cheryl Nolan, treasurer
■ Board has six members: Jennifer LeSar, Bill Larkin, Robert Hirsch, Cheryl Nolan, Frank Scarpaci, Oliva Espin
■ 2001 – six new members added to Center board: Kevin Tilden; Geri Bone; David Birnbaum; Leandro Viana; Jacki Leak; Robert Gleason
■ Annual Budget: $3,050,519

Center Notes:

■ Public Policy Department (PPD) begun with remaining “No on Prop 22” funds (February 2000) Advisory Board for PPD = M.E. Stephens, Dale Kelly Bankhead, Corri Planck, Rick, Barbra Cox; First department director = Sherry Wright
■ Brian Bazinet elected Center board chair June 2001
■ Dr. Delores Jacobs named interim executive director June 2001
■ David Bohnett Cyber Center opens
■ National search for executive director began in July 2001

Community Context:

■ 9/11 terrorist attack on the United States occurs


 Board Chair: Brian Bazinet; Vice Chairs: Geri Bone & Kevin Tilden, secretary Jacki Leak, treasurer, Robert Hirsch
■ Board consists of 13 members: Brian Bazinet, Geri Bone, Kevin Tilden, Jacki Leak, Robert Hirsch, Leandro Viana, Jennifer LeSar, Oliva Espin, David Birnbaum, Loc Dinh, Sandy McEvoy; Robert Gleason
■ Dr. Delores A. Jacobs selected as executive director in January 2002
■ Annual Budget = $ 3.1 million

Center Notes:

■ Center changes legal name to: The San Diego Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Community Center; some in community unhappy with the additional names added
■ Renovation of Centre Street downstairs begun August 2002, completed April 2003

Community Context:

■ Bonnie Dumanis was elected to be District Attorney of San Diego County, November 5, 2002; making her the first openly gay or lesbian DA in the country. She was re-elected in 2006, 2010 and 2014.


■ Renovation of Centre Street completed April 2003: Mayor & all of City Council at re-opening
■ Board Chair: Robert Gleason, Vice Chairs: Geri Bone & Richard Valdez, secretary, Lennie Alickman, treasurer, Fred Sainz
■ Board: Robert Gleason, Geri Bone, Richard Valdez, Fred Sainz, Lennie Alickman, Big Mike Phillips, Todd Gloria, Julia Legaspi, Robert James, John Laird, Jennifer LeSar, Kevin Tilden, Robert Hirsch, Joel Valenzuela, Dale Kelly-Bankhead, Lisa Rhodes, Pete Spencer, Richard Woulfe, Murvyn Callo
■ Dr. Delores A. Jacobs, executive director
■ Annual Budget: $3,122,626

Center Notes:

Youth Housing Project Planning Collaborative established
■ AIDS Walk completely returns to The Center 2003-2004 as a program of The Center
■ 30th Anniversary Gala (October 2003). Tile display commissioned and successful fundraiser. Placed in auditorium January 2004.
■ Annual Women’s Night established: Cher che La Femme
■ Queen Eddie Fund sponsored for the Imperial Court de San Diego established
■ Senior Services and 50 and Better established
■ Women’s Resource Center opened April 2003

Community Context:

■ June 26, 2003 U.S. Supreme Court decision: Lawrence v. Texas overturns Texas sodomy law and overturns Bowers vs. Hardwick


 Board Chair: Richard Valdez; Vice Chairs: Lennie Alickman & Peter Spencer, secretary, Dale Kelly-Bankhead,  treasurer, Fred Sainz
■ Board has 17 members: Robert Gleason, Geri Bone, Fred Sainz, Big Mike Phillips, Todd Gloria, Julia Legaspi, John Laird, Jennifer LeSar, ME Stephens, Kevin Tilden, Joel Valenzuela, Richard Woulfe
■ Dr. Delores A. Jacobs, CEO/president
■ Annual Budget: $3,756,161

Center Notes:

■ Richard Valdez, first Latino board chair
■ “Winter of Love” Marriage in SF ripples in SD; Freedom to Marry becomes increasing California focus of advocacy and education campaigns in California
■ Community Coalition Breakfast established
■ Needs assessment for LGBTQ+ youth housing project completed
■ The San Diego LGBT Leadership Council (CLC) established
■ Positive Action (HIV prevention) established
■ Wall of Honor established
■ Latin@ Services established

Community Context:

■ TRANS protections added to protections afforded by City of San Diego


■ Board: Richard Valdez, chair; Dale Kelly Bankhead, vice-chair; Peter Spencer, vice-chair; Jenny Flynn, treasurer; Lennie Alickman, secretary
John Laird, Geri Bone, Richard Britton, Robert Gleason, Todd Gloria, Christopher Gomez, Julia Legaspi, Jennifer LeSar, Big Mike Phillips, Federico Sainz de la Maza, M.E. Stephens, Kevin Tilden, Shaun Travers, Joel Valenzuela
■ Dr. Delores A. Jacobs, CEO
■ Annual Budget: $3,775,278

Center Notes:

■ Jenn Jones was hired as director of development in 2005 and served in that role until 2008
■ Sunburst Youth Housing Project (YHP) building purchased and renovation begun
■ Marriage Equality and Education project established
■ Center becomes a polling place for the first time
■ 2005 Wall of Honor Honorees: Thomas “Thom” Carey; Don Edmundson; Robert “Jess” Jessop; Robert “Rob” Shepard; John Ciaccio; Neil Good; Clint Johnson; Dr. A. Brad Truax; Barbara Crusberg; Don Hauk; Corrine “Martie” Mackey; Robert Walsh; John Eberly; Tom Homann; Gary Rees; Jerry White

Community Context:

■ John McCusker passes and is denied a Catholic funeral by the Bishop provoking outrage in the community; response event with McCusker family takes place in Centre Street Auditorium amoung much media interest
■ Center serves as host for one of the first mayoral candidate forums for the LGBT community


■ Board:Todd Gloria, chair; Dale Kelly Bankhead, vice-chair; Joel Valenzuela, vice-chair; Matthew Doherty, treasurer; Shaun Travers, secretary
■ Andrea Villa, Elenore Alickman. Geri Bone, Pamela A. Clifford, Jamie Fleming, Jennifer Flynn, Robert Gleason, John Laird, Robert Nelson, Pete Spencer, Mattheus Eadoin Stephens, Mary L. Stockton, Kevin Tilden, Richard Valdez, Sid Voorakkara, Lovel Waiters
■ Dr. Delores A. Jacobs, CEO
■ Annual Budget = $3,809,232

Center Notes:

■ Wall of Honor 2006 Honorees: Muriel Fisher; Herb King; Patrick McArron; Doug Moore; Maria Plasencia; Ron Umbaugh; Bridget Wilson
■ Elder Help (AAO) Aging Collaborative grant established
■ Sunburst Youth Housing Project (YHP) renovation complete and open 
■ In 2003, Dr. Heather Berberet, Reverend Tony Freeman, Dr. Delores Jacobs, Deputy Mayor Toni Atkins and Jennifer LeSar quickly joined by community experts and program collaborators, including Cesar Portillo; Laura Mustari, Ken Tyner and the YMCA; Mindy Watrous , Beth Barnes and Walden Family Services; Reverend Dan Koeshall of Metropolitan Community Church; Jan Stankus and San Diego Youth & Community Services; and Al Killen- Harvey and Children’s Hospital Chadwick Center. A needs assessment was commissioned and funded with the help of the Benjamin F. Dillingham Community Grants; Benjamin F. Dillingham, III; Brian’s American Eatery; Carol Bittman & Anita Gibbins; Fred Hammond; Gerald Micklos; Glenn Krasinski; Cesar Portillo; the Gay & Lesbian Times; the San Diego Human Dignity Foundation; the Imperial Court de San Diego; the Weingart Foundation; James Ziegler and many, many others. including many hard-working city and county staff (including George Biagi and Don Mullen); Pat Getzel and Associates; the incredible staff and board of The San Diego Housing Commission; the Centre City Development Corporation staff and board; the Low Income Investment Fund; the Corporation for Supportive Housing; Dene Oliver; Leslie Wade, Mike Madigan and the East Village Association; to the real estate agents and brokers (many, many thanks to David Yoder, Gail Hillen and Banker’s Hill Properties), even the title company, Alliance Title. The incredible work of The Center’s Amber Cyphers helped to make this project possible.


■ Board: Richard M. Valdez, chair; Kevin Tilden, vice-chair; Shaun Travers, vice-chair; Matthew Doherty, secretary; Pamela Clifford, treasurer
■ Board: Dale Kelly Bankhead; Sid Voorakkara; Jamie Fleming; Robert Gleason; Todd Gloria; Ben Gomez; John Laird; Kelly Lyndon; Bob Nelson; Mattheus Eadoin Stephens; Mary L. Stockton; Joel Valenzuela; Andrea Villa; Lovel Waiters
■ Dr. Delores A. Jacobs, CEO
■ Annual Budget = $4,186,630

Center Notes:

■ The Center Advocacy Project established, a nonpartisan 501c4 with a mission to secure equal civil and human rights for the LGBT and allied communities.
■ May 2007, Family Matters returns to The Center (formerly Mom’s & Me and Dads’ Too), The Center now providing LGBT family programming.
■ First annual Dining Out for Life® event takes place in San Diego, quickly becoming a community tradition.
■ Pachanga de Frida event established with first event on July 7, 2007. Celebrating the birthday of Frida Kahlo and commemorating the legendary life of one of the most influential Mexican painters of the mid-20th century this event benefits Latin@ Services at The Center. 
■ Wall of Honor 2007 Honorees: Lou & Carol Arko; Dr. Al Best; Gloria Johnson; Drs. David McWhirter & Andrew Mattison; Bernard Michels; Frederick Scholl; Jim Woodward


■ Board: Richard Valdez, chair; Dale Kelly Bankhead, vice-chair; Sid Voorakkara, secretary; Kevin Tilden, treasurer
■ Mary Stockton, Robert Gleason, Lisa Briggs, Matthew Doherty, Jeff Gattas; Ben Gomez, Robert Hirsch, Ph.D., John Laird, Kelly Lyndon, Mark Thompson, Andrea Villa
■ Dr. Delores A. Jacobs, CEO
■ Annual Budget = $4,838,051

Center Notes:

■ Jeff Wergeles was hired as director of development in 2008 and served in that role until 2011.
■ Wall of Honor 2008 Honorees: Fred Acheson; Larry Baza; Dr. Michael Clark; Phyllis Jackson; George Murphy; Frank Stiriti
■ The Equality Voters project established to encourage non-partisan community-wide voter registration and full civic engagement and participation.

Community Context:

■ The Supreme Court of California ruled in In re Marriage Cases, that barring same-sex couples from marriage violated the state’s Constitution on June 16, 2008. The state began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples as the result of the decision. Prior to that decision National Organization of Marriage (NOM) had begun constitutional amendment campaign (anticipating the Count decision) and the Decline to Sign campaign began in San Diego. The Decline to Sign campaign was unsuccessful, and Proposition 8 was placed on the November 2008 ballot. The Yes on Proposition 8 campaign (endorsing a constitutional amendment prohibiting marriage for same-sex couples) was successful and passed as a constitutional amendment in November 2008.
■ Between June and November 2008 (“The Summer of Love”) approximately 18,000 same-sex couples wed throughout California
■ Mayor Jerry Sanders formally opposed Proposition 8.
■ June 2008 Carl DeMaio elected to San Diego City Council (District 5) becoming the first openly gay man elected to San Diego City Council.
■ November 2008 Todd Gloria elected to City Council District 3 becoming the first openly gay man of color elected to San Diego City Council.
■ Barack Obama elected U.S. President, the first African-American President of the United States
■ Proposition 8 passed in California, amending the California constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage and making void the earlier Supreme Court decision. Again several extremely large community meetings at The Center to celebrate the initial Supreme Court decision and then again to discuss/mourn passage of Prop 8.
■ Late November 2008 — global financial collapse begins.


 Bob Nelson, chair; Dale Kelly Bankhead, vice-chair; Richard Valdez, vice-chair, Sid Voorakkara, secretary; Kevin Tilden, treasurer
■ Board: Mary Stockton,Matthew Doherty, Jeff Gattas, Robert Gleason, Ben Gomez, Robert Hirsch, Ph.D., John Laird, Kelly Lyndon, Ryland Madison, Mark Thompson, Shaun Travers; Andrea Villa
■ Dr. Delores A. Jacobs, CEO
■ Annual Budget = $4,342,680

Center Notes:

■ Nicole Murray Ramirez, Robert Gleason, Dr. Delores Jacobs, The San Diego LGBT Community Center, and broad coalition of civic and business leaders established the first Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast. Since then it has grown to become one of the largest, most diverse events of its kind, bringing together more than 1,000 San Diegans annually. 
■ Young Professionals Council (2009) was created to develop and empower young LGBT community members. The first Council was convened and staffed by Center staffer Carlos Marquez.

Community Context:

■ Beginning November 2008 right after a historic national election (President Barack Obama) and the challenging/disappointing passage of California (Prop 8); the global financial crisis and collapse became evident, creating unprecedented challenges for many businesses and not-for-profit organizations, as well as individuals, The Center was forced to layoff staff members and make deep budget cuts to be able to weather this period. As a function of this rapid early action, The Center was able to weather the two-year time period without further layoffs or the multiple budget cuts that plagued other not-for-profit organizations.
■ Aida Mancillas, a local artist and community activist who served on the Latino Services Advisory Committee of The Center, passed away on Feb. 3, 2009.
■ Robert H. Gleason was appointed to the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority in 2009. He was named Board Chair in 2010, and reappointed Board Chair on May 29, 2014.


■ Shaun Travers – Center Board Co-Chair; Dale Kelly Bankhead, Board Co-Chair; Sid Voorakkara, secretary; Lisa Briggs – treasurer
■ Board: Shaun Travers, Dale Kelly Bankhead, Sid Voorakkara, Lisa Briggs, Andrea Villa, Matthew Doherty; Jeff Robert Gleason Ben Gomez John Laird Kelly Lyndon Ryland Madison Mary Stockton 
■ Dr. Delores A. Jacobs, CEO
■ Annual Budget = $3,712,156

Center Notes:

■ “Engage San Diego” project begins
■ Center becomes a partner with San Diego Food Bank and begins monthly food distribution.
■ Center Board of Directors adopted position in support of Comprehensive Immigration Reform.
■ In keeping with the historic vision of its Founders and The Center’s traditional focus on cultural diversity and inclusion; The Center board reaffirmed its value upon and key strategic objective to support an intersectional understanding of social justice work and the ongoing agency focus on intersectionality in outreach,  programs and services that include the multiple disparities faced by many community members , including but not limited to: transgender, non-binary, gender non-conforming and genderqueer community members, members who are HIV positive, members of the communities of color and community members with fewer financial resources.

Community Context:

■ Michael Portantino, publisher of the Gay and Lesbian Times (GLT) died December 8, 2010. The GLT was Launched January 1988 and ceased publication October 2010, 23 years later. A memorial service for Portantino took place at The Center.
■ Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repealed December 22, 2010 and finally ends Sept. 20, 2011. Large community celebration in The Center’s auditorium.
■ Hon. Toni G. Atkins was elected to the State Assembly in November 2010, representing the 76th Assembly District.
■ Laura Duffy was nominated by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate to serve as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District, which covers San Diego and Imperial counties. February 24, 2010, at the time of her appointment she was one of four openly LGBT U.S. Attorneys. She served in this position from 2010 to 2017. She was then subsequently appointed to the Superior Court of San Diego County, December 24, 2016.


■ Board: Dale Kelly Bankhead Co-Chair ; Dr. Shaun Travers Co-Chair; Andrea Villa Vice Chair; Joyce Rowland, secretary; Matthew Doherty, treasurer 
■ Board: Eric Banks, Jeff Gattas Tom Hebrank, Ryland Madison Don Mullen Scott Peters, Michael Pierschbacher, Mary Stockton, Sid Voorakkara, IN MEMORIAM – John Laird 
■ Dr. Delores A. Jacobs, CEO/President
■ Annual Budget = $3,595,890

Center Notes:

■ Christopher Mills was hired as director of development in 2011 and served in that role until 2013.
■ Senior Housing Needs Assessment
 completed: (Dr. Delores A. Jacobs 2011 Enews)
The Senior Housing Project involved so many it is difficult to list them all – but here are some – Bill Beck, Billy Kelly, Robert Bettinger, Richard Burhenne, Gene Burkhardt, Geri Dilno, Tony Freeman, Lois Gail, Joselyn Harris, Robert Hirsch, Tom Kirkman, Stan Lewis, Nina Luis, Leanne Marchese, Walter Meyer, David Miles, George Murphy, Betty Owen, Ron Oster, Jerry Strayve, Tom Turner, Jim Zians, Community Housing Works – Sue Reynolds, Anne Wilson, Dave Gatzke; San Diego LGBT Community Center – Dr. Delores Jacobs, Patrick Loose, Beth Barnes, Amber Cypher Stephens, LaRue Fields; San Diego Human Dignity Foundation & the Aging as Ourselves Initiative; San Diego LGBT Pride

Community Context:

■ Bob Nelson was appointed to San Diego Port Commission, January 10, 2011; He served as Chairman and remained on the Port Commission until 2017.
■ Former executive director of The Center, Art Thompson died March 20, 2011.


■ Board: Dale Kelly Bankhead, Co-Chair; Dr. Shaun Travers, Co-Chair; Andrea Villa, Vice Chair Joyce Rowland, secretary Matthew Doherty, treasurer Tom Hebrank, 
■ Ryland Madison Eric Banks, Jeff Gattas, Don Mullen, Scott Peters, Michael Pierschbacher, Lisa Sanders, Mary Stockton, Richard Valdez, Ruben Villegas, Sid Voorakkara, Doug White 
■ Dr. Delores A. Jacobs, CEO
■ Annual Budget = $3,991,436

Center Notes:

■ The Benjamin F. Dillingham, III and Bridget Wilson LGBT Veterans Wall of Honor first envisioned by Nicole Murray-Ramirez, was established in 2012 to recognize lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender veterans with ties to San Diego. 
■ Young Professionals Academy created

Community Context:

■ November 2012 — President Barack Obama reelected President of the United States
■ November 2012 — Toni G. Atkins was re-elected to the State Assembly, representing the 78th Assembly (due to redistricting).
■ President Obama announced on May 9, 2012 his supports for marriage equality, making him the first sitting U.S. President to do so.
■ Charlie McCain, a longtime community activist and member of the San Diego Democrats for Equality, passed away in 2012.


■ Board: Dale Kelly Bankhead, Co-Chair; Richard Valdez, Co-Chair; G. Joyce Rowland, Vice-Chair; Shaun Travers, Ph.D., Vice-Chair; Ryland Madison, Secretary; Tom Hebrank, treasurer 
■ Andrea Villa, Lisa Nicole Sanders, Linda Cory Allen, Eric Banks, Gil Cabrera, Abraham De La Cruz, Simonne Ruff, Jeff Gattas
■ Dr. Delores A. Jacobs, CEO
■ Annual Budget = $4,573,660

Center Notes:

■ Brandon Tate was hired as director of development in 2013 and served in that role until 2014.
■ Celebrated Center’s 40 year Anniversary Gala
■ Project TRANS established: While all Center programs are transgender inclusive and supportive, we also have services designed specifically for the transgender community. Project TRANS (Transgender Referrals, Assistance, Networking and Services) offers a broad range of services and activities – from counseling, discussion groups and referrals to advocacy, workshops and social events.

Community Context:

■ United States v. Windsor was decided on June 26, 2013. In this landmark case, the United States Supreme Court held that restricting U.S. federal interpretation of “marriage” and “spouse” to apply only to opposite-sex unions, by Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), is unconstitutional under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.
■ Obergefell v. Hodges was decided on June 26, 2013. In this landmark case in the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples by both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The ruling meant that all fifty states must lawfully perform and recognize the marriages of same-sex couples on the same terms and conditions as the marriages of opposite-sex couples, with all the accompanying rights and responsibilities.
■ Center hosts community celebrations.
■ Longtime community activist and Democratic party leader Gloria Johnson passed away on Sept. 22, 2013 at the age of 76.


■ Board: Dale Kelly Bankhead, Co-Chair; Richard Valdez, Co-Chair; G. Joyce Rowland, Vice-Chair; Shaun Travers, Ph.D.; Vice-Chair; Ryland Madison, secretary; Tom Hebrank, Treasurer 
■ Andrea Villa, Lisa Nicole Sanders, Linda Cory Allen, Eric Banks, Joanna Clark, Gil Cabrera, Abraham De La Cruz, Simonne Ruff, Jeff Gattas, Pam Clifford, 
■ Dr. Delores A. Jacobs, CEO
■ Annual Budget = $4,883,775

Center Notes:

■ The Center begins the #BeTheGeneration campaign to focus upon the elimination of new cases of HIV disease in San Diego County and raise awareness about PrEP/PEP medications.
■ The Center first produced Tantrums and Tiaras on Sunday, February 16, 2014.

Community Context:

■ In January 2014, Toni G. Atkins was selected to serve as Speaker of the California State Assembly. Community celebration of this historic selection was held at The Center.


■ Board: Dale Kelly Bankhead, Co-Chair; Dr. Shaun Travers, Co-Chair; G. Joyce Rowland, Vice-Chair; Simonne Ruff, Vice-Chair; Gil Cabrera, secretary; Lisa Sanders, treasurer 
■ Pam Clifford , Eric Banks, Joanna Clark, Vernita Gutierrez, Warren Ruis, Richard Valdez,  Christopher Ward, Andrea Villa 
■ Dr. Delores A. Jacobs, CEO
■ Annual Budget = $5,091,679

Center Notes:

■ First HIV tester/counselors for The Center’s #BeTheGeneration program trained to begin Center staff involvement in HIV testing on site (rather than just previous County testers and UCSD program testers)

Community Context:

■ Robert H. Gleason was appointed to the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, January 1, 2015. He was reappointed on January 1, 2018 and named Board Chair.
■ Longtime community pioneer Al Best passed away in June 2015.
■ Longtime community activist Kurt Cunningham died October 10, 2015. A celebration of his life was held at The Center.
■ Jaime Nova, a well-known local transgender activist and popular server at Mo’s Universe, passed away on Nov. 10, 2015 at the age of 31.


■ Board: Dr. Shaun Travers, Co-Chair; G. Joyce Rowland, Co-Chair; Simonne Ruff, Vice Chair; Gil Cabrera, secretary; Lisa Sanders, treasurer 
■ Pam Clifford, Dale Kelly Bankhead, Eric Banks, Joanna Clark, Gloria Cruz, Vernita Gutierrez, Warren Ruis, Andrea Villa, Dr. Joel F. Trambley, Victor H. Ravago Pam Clifford 
■ Dr. Delores A. Jacobs, CEO
■ Annual Budget = $5,235,552

Center Notes:

■ Cara Dessert was hired as the chief development and community engagement officer in 2016.
■ Center begins HIV and HCV testing on-site with trained staff, furthering the efforts of the #BeTheGeneration campaign

Community Context:

■ Todd Gloria was elected to California Assembly, November 8, 2016
■ Georgette Gómez was elected to San Diego City Council, District 9, November 8, 2016; making her the first queer Chicana elected to the San Diego City Council. 
■ Chris Ward, elected to San Diego City Council, District 3, June 7, 2016
■ On June 12, 2016, 49 people were killed and 58 others were wounded in a terrorist attack/hate crime inside Pulse, an LGBT nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Pulse was hosting a “Latin Night” and thus most of the victims were LGBT Latinos and allies. It was the deadliest incident of mass violence against LGBT people in U.S. history, and was the deadliest terrorist attack in the U.S. since the September 11, 2001 attacks. Large town hall mourning those lost was held at The Center, with crowds spilling onto the streets.
■ Longtime San Diego LGBT community leader and Center supporter Dr. William (Bill) Beck died February 22, 2016.
■ Will Walters, a civil rights activist and founder of FreeWillUSA, passed away on Dec. 28, 2016.


■ Board: G. Joyce Rowland, Co-Chair; Dr. Shaun Travers, Co-Chair; Simonne Ruff, Vice Chair; Lisa Sanders, treasurer; Gil Cabrera, secretary 
■ Dale Kelly Bankhead, Eric Banks, Joanna Clark, Gloria Cruz, Kafele J. Khalfani, Vernita Gutierrez, Alex Sheldon, Victor Ravago, Dr. Joel F. Trambley, Warren Ruis, Andrea Villa 
■ Dr. Delores A. Jacobs, CEO
■ Annual Budget = $5,914,365

Center Notes:

■ Dr. Delores Jacobs announced her intended retirement from The Center effective June 30, 2018
■ Ian Johnson was hired as director of development in 2017 and currently continues to serve in that role.
■ To provide community transparency of The Center’s Leadership Transition Plan, the entire plan is posted on the website, including steps for its executive search, which began in summer of 2017.
■ More than 200 interviews, focus group attendees solicited for feedback regarding characteristics sought in new Center chief executive.
■ Hosted Center’s 45th Anniversary Gala, announced $2 million dollar matching campaign opportunity.

Community Context:

■ Michael “Giggles” Calles, a popular server at Mo’s Universe and community activist, passed away on March 17, 2017.
■ Aug. 10, 2017 — Longtime community activist and philanthropist Mel Merrill passed away.  Merrill became a longtime supporter and donor, and in 1980 joined with six other community members to form a real estate partnership to buy the building that became The Center’s second site on 30th Street. 
■ Longtime San Diego LGBT and HIV community supporter Benjamin F. Dillingham passed away November 16, 2017. Dillingham previously served as Chief of Staff to San Diego Mayor Maureen O’Connor.


■ Board: G. Joyce Rowland, Co-Chair; Simonne Ruff, Co-Chair; Lisa Sanders, Vice Chair; Warren Ruis, treasurer; Joanna Clark, secretary 
■ Dale Kelly Bankhead, Eric Banks, Gil Cabrera, Gloria Cruz, Kafele J. Khalfani, Vernita Gutierrez, Alex Sheldon, Victor Ravago, Dr. Joel F. Trambley, Dr. Shaun Travers, Andrea Villa 
■ Dr. Delores A. Jacobs, CEO
■ Annual Budget = $

Center Notes:

■ Successfully reached $2 million campaign goal; matching donors Ron Bowman, with his husband Stan Zukowfsky announce a second gift of $1.65 to pay off mortgage for the Centre Street building in spring of 2018.
■ March 15, 2018 — Center Board announces selection of Caroline (Cara) Dessert, Esq. as the next Center Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Delores A. Jacobs completed her historic, 17-year tenure as the longest serving chief executive on June 30, 2018. Dessert assumed CEO duties July 1, 2018.

Community Context:

■ Toni G. Atkins elected President pro Tempore of the California State Senate, making her the first woman, first San Diegan, and first LGBTQ community member to be President pro Tempore of the California Senate.

March 2021 – The Center shares how it has responded to our community during the COVID-19 pandemic. Click here.

1869 – The term “homosexual” was first used by Austrian Karl Kertbeny in a tract pleading for social tolerance.

1924 – The Society for Human Rights, America’s first known “gay rights” organization, was established in Chicago. It lasted less than a year.

1940-1945 – During World War II thousands of Americans experienced new cultures and sexual mores overseas. The U.S. Military began a dedicated campaign to expel soldiers thought to be homosexual.

1948 – The publication of Sexual Behavior in the Human Male by Alfred Kinsey broadcast the news that one in 10 males admitted to having had at least one sexual experience with another male.

1950 – The Mattachine Society was founded in Los Angeles by Harry Hay, Rudi Gernreich, Bob Hull, Chuck Rowlands, James Gruber, Dale Jennings and Konrad Stevens.

1955 – Daughters of Bilitis, the first lesbian organization, was founded by Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon in San Francisco.

1965 – The first public protest by gays took place outside the Pentagon and White House.

June 28, 1969 – Stonewall riots occur over several nights in New York City in response to harassment by police.

1969-1970 – Gay Activists Alliance, Gay Liberation Front, National Gay Task Force, and many other activist organizations were formed.

1973 – The American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of diseases and disorders.

1977 – In Dade County, FL, Anita Bryant began her crusade to save America’s children from homosexuals.

1978 – In November, Harvey Milk, an openly gay member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, and San Francisco Mayor George Moscone were assassinated by Supervisor Dan White.

1979 – The first March on Washington for Gay Rights attracted approximately 100,000 marchers.

1981 – The first cases of Gay Cancer, later named AIDS, are found in New York City.

1980’s – The growth of civil disobedience as political activism led to the founding of groups like ACT UP, Lesbian Avengers and Queer Nation.

1989 – Denmark was the first nation to legalize gay marriage.

1990’s – The LGBT community develops growing political influence in presidential campaigns.

2000 – Vermont was the first state to pass legislation regarding Civil Unions for same sex couples.

2000 – California Domestic Partnership Registration becomes available with the passage of AB 26. Califonia becomes the second state in the Union to legally recognize same-sex relationships.

2003 – The United States Supreme Court on June 26, 2003 struck down Texas’s Homosexual Conduct law and all sodomy laws across the nation. This landmark decision was among the most significant rulings ever for LGBT Americans and civil rights.

2005 and 2007 – Twice the California Legislature passed a bill that would allow same-sex couples to marry. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill both times.

2008 – On May 15, the California Supreme Court ruled that denying same-sex couples the freedom to marry violates the California Constitution. Same-sex couples in California were able to legally marry from June 15 to November 4.

2008 – On November 4, Proposition 8 passed by a narrow margin and the California Constitution was amended to restrict marriage to one man and one woman. On November 5, Lambda Legal, NCLR and the ACLU filed Strauss v. Horton with the California Supreme Court, challenging the validity of Proposition 8.

2009 – The California State Supreme Court heard oral arguments, with a final ruling due within 90 days.

2009 – On March 5, the California Supreme Court upheld the voter-approved constitutional ban in Strauss v. Horton. Proposition 8 then was challenged in federal court in Perry v. Schwarzenegger.

2010 – On August 4, 2010, a federal judge ruled that California’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. On August 12 he ruled that marriages could resume on August 18, 2010, but the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit stayed the ruling pending appeal.

2010 – In December the US House of Representatives and the US Senate passed a stand-alone bill repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. President Obama signed the bill into law on December 29.

2011 – The Obama administration announced it would no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act

2012 – Tammy Baldwin became the first openly LGBT candidate elected to the U.S. Senate

2012 – Marriage equality was approved by popular vote for the first time in the U.S. when Maine and Maryland vote in favor 

2013 – The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Windsor that the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional

2015 – The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that same-sex couples have the fundamental right to marry and that states must recognize those marriages

2015 – The Pentagon lifted the military ban on transgender service members

For more photos and details of San Diego’s LGBT community history, visit Lambda Archives.

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