Timeline - 1983-1994: Loss, Strength, and Survival

Will Collins

1983 – 1994: Loss, Strength, and Survival

  • February 5, 1983: The Gay Academic Union of UNLV holds its first formal meeting in the Moyer Student Union.
  • March 10, 1983: A 32-year-old man, resident in Las Vegas just six months, is the first person to die of AIDS in Southern Nevada. Just over a year later, in March 1984, Aid for AIDS of Nevada [AFAN] forms in a meeting at MCC-Las Vegas attended by representatives of MCC, Nevadans for Human Rights, Nevada Gay Times, the Gay Switchboard, UNLV's Lesbian Gay Academic Union, the Community Action Committee, and the Buffalo bar. The parent organization is Aid for AIDS, founded in Los Angeles in mid-1983. The organization begins publishing AFANews in 1985. In 1987, the First Annual Superstar Aid for AIDS Benefit is performed in the Lido showroom at the Stardust Hotel. Entertainers include Norm Crosby, Lola Falana, Robert Goulet, Suzanne Somers, the McGuire Sisters, Roberta Sherwood, the Smothers Brothers, and cast members from a number of Strip shows. The event raises more than $8,000 for AFAN. In 1991, Las Vegas holds its first AIDS Memorial Walk. By 1992, Nevada AIDS cases pass 1,000. In 2001, AFAN's 11th Annual AIDS Walk breaks all previous records for participation and revenue: more than 3,000 people raise $172,483. On August 27, 2004 Fighting AIDS in Our Community [FACT] opens a new, larger facility on Wheeler Peak Drive. FACT was founded in 1998 as an outreach to the African-American HIV/AIDS community, and had been operating from a small office at the University Medical Center [UMC].
Alfred Parkinson and Fred Schoonmaker
  • May 6-14 1983Las Vegas' first Gay Pride Celebration, sponsored by the Gay Academic Union, Nevadans for Human Rights, and the Metropolitan Community Church of Las Vegas, is held at University of Nevada, Las Vegas [UNLV].
  • June, 1983: The Las Vegas Gay Archives is founded by Dennis McBride.
  • November 19, 1984: Reno gay activist Fred Schoonmaker announces in the Reno Gazette Journal that he intends to establish a gay town in Nevada where the state’s gay community could find a “safe and peaceful place” to escape institutionalized homophobia. The town will be named Stonewall Park for the 1969 Stonewall Riots that sparked the fight for gay equality. Schoonmaker, his lover, Alfred Parkinson, and several loyal friends attempt first to establish Stonewall Park in Silver Springs, Nevada; then in Rhyolite; and, finally, on a ranch near Thunder Mountain north of Reno. Each time, local hostility, lack of broad support in the gay community, and Fred’s own lack of business sense, doom the project. His dream unrealized, Fred dies of an AIDS-related heart attack on May 20, 1987.
  • March 29-31, 1985: The first Desert States Lesbian and Gay Conference [aka the Desert and Mountain States Lesbian and Gay Conference] is held at UNLV.
  • February 4, 1987Women United of Nevada holds its first organizational meeting. At this meeting a faltering lesbian social group established on July 12, 1986 is absorbed. From this point, Women United of Nevada becomes Las Vegas's longest-lived and most popular lesbian organization. Ten years later, on February 14, 1997, for one grand night, Women United of Nevada and Ladies Night Out—both long defunct—resurrect themselves for a Valentine's Dance Reunion at the Flex nightclub. More than 400 women show up.
  • December 11, 1987: Taking over where the Las Vegas Community Bookstore left off in 1984, Bright Pink Literature (Get Booked) opens at 4310 Paradise Road, Suite 202-A, adjacent to the Body Shop bar. Bright Pink is owned and operated by Las Vegas Bugle publisher Rob Schlegel and quickly becomes one of the community's most popular hangouts. Bright Pink hosts art shows and autograph receptions and provides gay titles Las Vegas's commercial bookstores won't carry.
  • April 1, 1990: The Community Counseling Center opens at 1006-1008 East Sahara Avenue. Within a short time Community Counseling becomes one of the gay community's greatest resources, providing a host of counseling programs tailored for Las Vegas's gay population that are unavailable anywhere else; meeting space for community groups; and outreach efforts to such mainstream organizations as the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police force, the National Conference of Christians and Jews, and the Teamsters Union.
Bonaventura Letter
  • October 11, 1991: Las Vegas throws its first National Coming Out Day celebration in Sunset Park, sponsored by the Lambda Pride Association.
  • May 13, 1993Senate Bill 466, drafted by State Senator Lori Lipman Brown to repeal Nevada's sodomy law, is introduced in the Nevada legislature. In May, it passes the Senate and in June, the Assembly. On June 16, 1993, Governor Bob Miller signs the bill, decriminalizing consensual sex in private between gay people. Nevada the only state whose legislature voluntarily repealed its sodomy law. Nevertheless, the infamous crime against nature is still defined in Nevada as anal intercourse, cunnilingus or fellatio between consenting adults of the same sex.
  • October 15, 1993: When the Gay and Lesbian Community Center holds its grand opening at 912 East Sahara Avenue, the ever-vigilant Christian Resistance group puts homophobic fliers on the windshields of cars in the parking lot. In 2000, the Gay and Lesbian Community Center, still going strong, shortens its name to The Center to better include bisexual and transgendered people.
  • January-June, 1994: Lon Mabon exports his fundamentalist organization, the Oregon Citizens Alliance, to Nevada as the Nevada Citizens Alliance [NCA]. The NCA joins with a number of right-wing and religious fundamentalist organizations indigenous to Nevada [including Nevada Concerned Citizens] to get the homophobic Minority Status and Child Protection Act on Nevada's 1994 ballot. Their petition drive fails due in part to active opposition from Nevada Governor Bob Miller and Las Vegas Mayor Jan Jones.