Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band Named the Official Band of San Francisco

SF Mayor London Breed signs ordinance declaring the Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band the 'Official Band of the City and County of San Francisco'

On Tuesday, December 18, 2018, San Francisco Mayor London Breed signed into law an ordinance designating the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band the official band of the City and County of San Francisco.

The San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band was founded in 1978 as the first LGBT musical group in the world. The ordinance, drafted by District 8 supervisor Rafael Mandelman and passed unanimously by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, honors the Band’s historic impact on San Francisco and the LGBTQ community.

In 1998, on the Band’s 20th anniversary, Supervisor Tom Ammiano honored the Band with a proclamation naming them as the Official Band of San Francisco. A similar proclamation was presented in 2003 to honor the Band’s 25th anniversary. Through the years, the Band has proudly claimed this “unofficial” official title. Finally, as they wrap up 40 years of playing with pride, they can legally, and permanently, call themselves the Official Band of the City and County of San Francisco.

Passing the ordinance was no easy feat, according to the Band’s President, Doug Litwin. “What’s happening here is the culmination of 18 months of hard work that involved three mayors and more than a few supervisors,” said Litwin at the signing ceremony on Tuesday. Those 18 months were just the icing on the cake. President Litwin continued, “But it’s actually the culmination of 40 years of history that began in June 1978 by our founder Jon Sims.”

Jon Sims formed the Band, then called the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Marching Band and Twirling Corps, in 1978 at the height of Anita Bryant’s anti-gay crusade. He believed that music could build understanding among communities of all sexual orientations and identities. The Band has played all over San Francisco, the country, and the world.

The ordinance also marked the first piece of legislation authored by District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman to be signed into law. Supervisor Mandelman praised the Band for representing the city and the LGBT community. “From their first performance marching in front of Harvey Milk’s contingent at the 1978 Pride parade until their 40th Anniversary celebration earlier this year, the Band has been cultural mainstay in San Francisco,” said Mandelman. He noted several events where the Band has performed, including the inaugurations of three San Francisco mayors, the inaugurations of Presidents Clinton and Obama, and in the film Milk on the steps of City Hall.

As the ceremony started to wrap up, before the Band played San Francisco’s official ballad, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” President Litwin said a few final words. “This is absolutely the most exciting day in the band’s history…Just as we have an official flower, bird, motto, songs, and colors, we’ll forever have an official band.”

Mayor London Breed expressed her excitement several times, remembering her junior high days as a French Horn player. As the Band stood up to play for Mayor Breed, she instilled in the Band a new responsibility that comes with their official status. “I want to make it clear to the new Official Band of San Francisco that I will be asking you to work harder than you’ve ever worked before.” Mayor Breed told the Band that San Francisco has numerous celebrations and events, and they’ll need the Official Band to be there performing.

After 40 years, the Band is thrilled to continue their hard work promoting visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities.

Read, watch, and listen to other coverage about this historic occasion:

Press Conference Video from the Mayor’s Office

SF Mayor London Breed press conference at the signing ceremony declaring the Freedom Band the official band of the city

Article header image photo credit: Kevin Hume of SF Examiner