After nearly a decade of activism with a handful of victories, 1979 was a tumultuous year for the San Diego gay community. In February, five officers from the San Diego Police Department raided the Fourth Avenue Club and charged twenty-three patrons with lewd conduct. In response, lobbyist George Raya and activist Fred Scholl organized a community meeting resulting in the formation of the Gay Alliance for Equal Rights, its main objective being to address police harassment. Approximately one hundred people showed up to the first meeting held on February 7th. Controversy swelled around the issue of discrimination within the workforce at the San Diego Police Department as well. Just days before the Pride parade on June 23rd, Assistant Chief of Police Robert Burgreen stated that sexual orientation was not a discriminating factor in recruitment. However, previous sentiments had been expressed to the contrary and no official anti-discrimination policy or recruitment efforts had been put into place. Former officer Larry Lamond came out and resigned in 1977, stating that he “wouldn’t recommend any gay to become a cop in San Diego” and citing a long-standing issue of discrimination toward women and minorities in addition to homosexuals.
The Pride parade was held on June 23rd, just a few days after Burgreen’s announcement. The San Diego Lesbian/Gay Men’s Pride Alliance planned and sponsored the event for the second year. The parade procession crossed Balboa Bridge into Balboa Park, where the rally was held at the Organ Pavilion. This year seventeen organizations participated, but diverse representation was lacking. San Diego Update reported that black and Chicano organizations had not responded to invitations. This issue of white prominence in Pride and at the Center for Social Services would continue for years to come.
That August, San Diego Update also reported low participation. Although this figure is likely an understatement, another Pride event seems to have stolen the spotlight in 1979. Larry Goodman, “Mr. Gay California,” held the 2nd annual Gay Pride Picnic and Olympics on August 26, just a month after the Pride parade. It was held at Balboa Park from 10 a.m. until dusk. Goodman told San Diego Update that he “wanted [a gay event] that was free and social rather than political.” Twenty-three kegs were donated by local bars, and events included a potato sack race, a wheelbarrow race, an eating contest, and a wet tshirt contest that was met with controversy by lesbians. An estimated twenty-five hundred people attended.