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Celebrating the Impact of John A. Pérez During Pride Month

LAC Pride Community Spotlight Perez 16x9

As part of the celebration of June's Pride Month, the Chargers organization is highlighting the impact of game changers across the Southern California community. John A. Pérez, the first openly gay speaker elected in the United States, is up next.

As it stands now, California has the largest and most diverse legislative caucus in the country.

There's no doubt John A. Pérez had a major hand in that.

Pérez, who previously served as the 68th Speaker of the California State Assembly from 2010 to 2014, was the first openly gay speaker elected in the United States.

"I grew up in a California that, demographically, looked a lot like the California of today," Pérez said. "But in terms of who was in office, it was not.

"When I grew up, there had only been a handful of Latinos in state office. The only gay elected official I had seen was Harvey Milk and he was assassinated," Pérez continued. "It didn't look like that was a pathway."

Pérez later added: "The expectation was that I would never be in office because, again, nobody like me had even been in office."

Instead, Pérez relied on a mantra he developed growing up that stated if a government could do ill, it could also do good.

So, Pérez smashed the barriers in front of him to help lift up both the LGBTQ and Latino communities.

"It was an issue that described me but didn't define me," Pérez, who is now a University of California Regent, said about being openly gay. "The challenges [of my job] were the main focus.

"But, also knowing that, having grown up without anyone who looked like me [in office], for others it might make a difference to know they have pathways that previously hadn't been trodden before," Pérez continued.

He later added: "These are important milestones, but everybody deserves a seat at the table.


Liliana Perez (no relation), the Chargers Senior Director of Cultural Affairs, spoke about the impact Pérez's election had on the state.

"Speaker Emeritus has been a critical and forceful leader in shaping California's policy," Perez said. "From his humble beginnings to one of the nation's top thought of leaders, his success is best described as bold and assertive but also compassionate for the most vulnerable among us."

Pérez immediately went to work to figure out a historic budget deficit while also focusing on health care coverage and college affordability for middle class families.

He also kept actively fighting in the battle against HIV and AIDS, a focus of Pérez since his adolescence.

"People died in droves. And having your identity inextricably linked to AIDS created other impediments of inequality," Pérez said. "But really, it was a global pandemic that wasn't getting as much attention as it needed to.

Pérez would later serve in both the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations on councils for HIV and AIDS.

Along the way, he also developed a love for the powder blues as his fandom stretches back decades.

"The Chargers caught my attention with that win over the Steelers in the 1994 AFC Championship," Pérez said. "And then the walk-off touchdown [by Darren Sproles] in overtime to beat the Colts in 2008.

"When the Chargers moved to LA, I knew I was going to be in love. I immediately became a season ticket holder," Pérez added. "I love what the Chargers have done since they've come to LA, both on the field and in the community."


As a University of California Berkeley alum and a Cal football fan, Pérez joked that he had to warm up to the idea of Chargers Head Coach Jim Harbaugh given the longstanding rivalry between Cal and Stanford.

"He was a guy I didn't used to like," Pérez said with a laugh. "Not because I didn't respect his skill but he was the coach for the other team.

"I'm looking forward to finally appreciating Harbaugh and seeing if he can take us all the way," Pérez added.

A Chargers season ticket holder, Pérez said he can't wait to get back to SoFi Stadium for the 2024 season.

But Pérez also made it clear that he is now a year-round fan of the Bolts, especially for their continued support for Pride Month and the LGBTQ community.

"It means the team is serious about wanting to be the team for all of Los Angeles." Pérez said. "When you get to a Chargers game, everybody is part of the Chargers community.

"What is special about LA is that, when go to a game in LA, the stands look like the community," Pérez added. "Everybody has a part and we all come together to root and bring home a Chargers victory."

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