The History of LGBTQ+ PRIDE in Las Vegas, Nevada

By Las Vegas PRIDE Magazine Staff

The story of LGBTQ+ Pride in Las Vegas, like in many other cities across the United States, is one of perseverance and resilience in the face of adversity. During the mid-20th century, homosexuality was heavily stigmatized, and the LGBTQ+ community often lived in the shadows, fearing discrimination and persecution.

In Las Vegas, gay bars and clubs provided a refuge for those seeking acceptance and community. One of the first openly gay bars in Las Vegas, The Red Barn, opened its doors in 1972. These bars offered a sanctuary where individuals could be themselves, even if only behind closed doors.

The Stonewall riots in 1969 marked a turning point in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights across the United States. As the gay liberation movement gained momentum, it found its way to Las Vegas. In 1976, the Gay Academic Union established a presence in the city, promoting research and activism on LGBTQ+ issues.


During this time, various LGBTQ+ organizations began to form, offering support, advocacy, and education.

Las Vegas held its inaugural PRIDE Celebration in 1983, marking a significant milestone in the city’s LGBTQ+ history. This event, which began as a modest gathering, symbolized a growing sense of visibility and pride within the community.

Over the years, the PRIDE Celebration grew in size and scope, reflecting the increasing acceptance and support for the LGBTQ+ community in Las Vegas. As more allies joined the cause, the parade evolved into a colorful and exuberant celebration of diversity.

Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, the LGBTQ+ community in Las Vegas, like elsewhere in the United States, faced legal challenges. Nevada’s “sodomy laws” criminalizing same-sex relationships were repealed in 1993, a significant step toward equality. In 2014, a federal court ruled that Nevada’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, leading to marriage equality in the state.

These legal victories, although hard-fought, contributed to a sense of progress and hope within the community. The LGBTQ+ community in Las Vegas and their allies continued to push for comprehensive anti-discrimination protections and equal rights under the law.

As the city of Las Vegas expanded, so did its LGBTQ+ scene. New bars, clubs, and businesses catering to the community emerged, creating a vibrant and inclusive atmosphere. Iconic venues like Krave (now closed) Charlies, and FreeZone became staples of the LGBTQ+ nightlife, offering a range of entertainment options from drag shows to dance floors.

Las Vegas also became home to various LGBTQ+ events, such as the Sin City Classic, an annual sports festival celebrating diversity in athletics. These events not only fostered a sense of community but also showcased the city’s commitment to embracing LGBTQ+ culture.

Las Vegas PRIDE, the organization responsible for the annual PRIDE Parade and Festival, has played a pivotal role in fostering LGBTQ+ visibility and acceptance in the city. Founded in 1982, it has grown into a year-round advocacy organization that supports the LGBTQ+ community through various programs, events, and services.

The PRIDE Festival, which accompanies the PRIDE Parade each year, has become one of the city’s most prominent LGBTQ+ gatherings. It features entertainment, food, vendors, and community resources. The festival’s diverse lineup of performers includes local talents, international acts, and renowned drag queens, creating a dynamic and inclusive space for all.

While significant progress has been made in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights and acceptance in Las Vegas, challenges persist. Discrimination and harassment still affect many members of the community, particularly transgender individuals and LGBTQ+ people of color. Continued advocacy and education remain essential in addressing these issues.

The history of LGBTQ+ Pride in Las Vegas, Nevada, is a testament to the resilience, strength, and determination of the LGBTQ+ community and its allies. From the early struggles in the shadows to the vibrant celebrations of today, Las Vegas has evolved into a city that embraces diversity and works towards equality.

Las Vegas PRIDE Magazine - Issue 47

This article was originally published in Issue 47 of Las Vegas PRIDE Magazine, and can be read in its original format here.