Remembering the Briggs Initiative
If you’re ever in San Francisco, I strongly recommend you visit them. As well as a terrific museum, they maintain an extraordinary archive in the City capturing valuable LGBTQ stories and history.
The GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco is an internationally renowned center for LGBTQ public history that collects, preserves and interprets the history and culture of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people and the communities that support them. Founded in 1985, the society maintains one of the world’s largest archives of LGBTQ historical materials. Since 2011, it also has operated the GLBT History Museum in the city’s Castro District; in the seven years since it opened, nearly 120,000 people from around the world have attended exhibitions and programs at the museum. For more information, visit www.glbthistory.org
“Never Again! Fight Back!” (San Francisco: Too Much Graphics, 1978); silk-screened poster sold as a fundraiser for the No on Six campaign. Collection of the GLBT Historical Society.
A new exhibition opening September 14 at the GLBT History Museum marks the 40th anniversary of the defeat of a California ballot measure that would have banned lesbian and gay people and supporters of lesbian and gay rights from teaching in public schools. “The Briggs Initiative: A Scary Proposition” recounts the history of this turning point for LGBTQ rights.
Sponsored by State Senator John Briggs, Proposition Six was part of a wave of homophobic ballot measures across the United States. On November 7, 1978, Californians decisively voted down the measure. The No on Six campaign was the first to succeed in stopping anti-gay forces in the voting booth. Among the best remembered leaders of the effort was Harvey Milk, but many other groups and individuals also made vital contributions.
“This exhibition will bring a scary time for LGBTQ people zinging back for those of us who were there, reminding us that we can fight the forces of anti-LGBTQ discrimination and win even against long odds,” said co-curator Sue Englander. “And if you weren’t here 40 years ago, the story will sear itself into your consciousness. The differences between 1978 and today aren’t as big as they may look.”
Drawing on posters, buttons, flyers, photographs, videos and other scarce materials from the archives of the GLBT Historical Society and the San Francisco History Center of the San Francisco Public Library, the exhibition traces the history of the fight to defeat Briggs and advance equality for LGBTQ people and their allies in California. The show focuses in particular on organizing in the Bay Area. Joining Sue Englander as co-curators are Paula Lichtenberg and Glenne McElhinney. All are veterans of the No on Six campaign.
“No on 6” bumper sticker (San Francisco: Bay Area Committee Against the Briggs Initiative, 1978). Collection of the GLBT Historical Society.
“The Briggs Initiative: A Scary Proposition” opens Friday, September 14, at the GLBT History Museum, 4127 18th St., San Francisco, with a public reception set for 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. The curators will offer introductory remarks, and light refreshments will be served. Admission is $5.00; free for members of the GLBT Historical Society.