In order to publicize and raise funds for CRH, Jose Saria helped the council plan a New Year’s drag ball at California Hall. At the time is was illegal to be gay, to gather in a community as gay individuals and to dress in the clothing of the opposite sex. The Rev. Cecil Williams coordinated with the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) before the event and was given assurance that the SFPD would not interfere with the event. Instead, the SFPD showed up with arrest wagons, photographed everyone entering the party and arrested three individuals. The events that night, propelled the CRH into the spotlight and led to major reforms in policing of the LGBTQIA+ community. You can learn more about the events at California Hall in the multimedia items below.
Advertisement for Mardi Gras Ball, Citizens News, December, 1964 Courtesy of the GLBT Historical Society.
Courtesy of the LGBT Religious Archives Network (LGBTRAN) You can view additional information and materials at LGBTRAN’s exhibit on the Council on Religion and the Homosexual.
1964 – SIR Letter of Reluctant Support
The letter below, from the Society for Individual Rights (SIR), expressing their reluctant support of the dance is included here because it shows a significant change that occurs after the New Years dance. After the raid, as shown in the next document, SIR begins regularly hosting dances at Glide Church.
1965 Press Conference and Lawsuit
Click here or on the image above to view a PDF of this Vector issue, which also includes an article by the Rev. Cecil Williams. Courtesy of the GLBT Historical Society.
1974 Lawsuit Settlement
The lawsuit was settled for $50. The funds were donated to CRH.
Courtesy of the San Francisco Public Library History Center, Smith Cal-Hall Papers, GLC 47, Correspondence RE Settlement and Check
2012 Lewd and Lascivious Film
Lewd & Lascivious, a documentary by Jallen Rix, was produced to tell the story of California Hall. The synopsis for the film states: “The year is 1965, and even though the San Francisco civil rights movement is in full swing, just the perception of a person being gay or lesbian can bring on harsh abuse and violence from the police department. Surprisingly, an unlikely group of straight ministers see the injustices firsthand, and work, for the first time, with the queer community to do something about it. Yet, simply having a dance to raise funds for their cause is enough for the cops to show up in mass, invite the private party, and start making arrests. What happens next becomes a pivotal, yet little-known, moment in gay, lesbian and trans history, not to mention in San Francisco history, too!”
2019 Apology at Glide from the SFPD Chief Bill Scott
In 2019, after community reconciliation work and learning, lead by Commander Teresa Ewins and Community Chaplain Coordinator Megan Rohrer (who currently works at Glide Church as the Senior Church Communications Specialist), SFPD Chief Bill Scott came to Glide to apologize for the events that took place at California Hall and the Compton’s Cafeteria Riot. The apology was followed by a community listening session at Glide and a subsequent listening sessions throughout San Francisco’s LGBTQ community.
If this exhibit has inspired you to learn more about Glide Pride, you can connect here.