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Grand Rapids LGBT History – Mayor Helmholt and the 1st Pride Celebration

October 31, 2011

In 1988, the Lesbian and Gay Community Network set out to organize the first Pride Celebration in Grand Rapids.

The group sent a request to Grand Rapids Mayor Gerald Helmholt asking that he provide a Mayoral Proclamation in support of the inaugural event. Helmholt denied their request saying it was too controversial for him to endorse.

In 1989, The Network tried again to get a Mayoral Proclamation and again Helmholt denied such a request. Members of The Network attended a City Commission meeting on June 6, 1989 asking for the proclamation. The Network Newsletter documented that event and cited several members who spoke during the commission meeting.

Network members reminded the Mayor that this was the then 20th Anniversary of the Stonewall uprising and that Gay and Lesbians deserved equal rights and recognition. Rev. Bruce Roller responded to Helmholt’s denial for a Mayor Proclamation by saying, “I’m real angry and real tired of having our God’s name to oppress lesbians and gays.”

In that same issue of the Network News the group pointed out that Mayor Helmholt had granted at least 119 proclamations since the group’s first request in 1988. Among the groups/events that Helmholt wrote proclamations for were: Michigan Beverage News Week, Family Sexuality Education Month, Polish Heritage Month, National Roofing Week and Bozo Show Day.

Let us never forget this history!

Join us for the premier screening of A People’s History of the LGBTQ Community in Grand Rapids on Thursday, November 17, 6:30PM at the downtown campus of GVSU. See our Facebook event page for details.

Here is a WOOD TV 8 interview with Mayor Helmholt in 1988 who stated that he denied proclamations to other groups besides Gays and Lesbians, namely Nazis.

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