As a native of conservative, blood-red South Dakota working as a journalist, there were no opportunities to report on – and write about — Stonewall Democrats. True story.

All that changed after relocating to California in September 2000 less than six weeks before Election Day. George W. Bush and Al Gore were locked in a battle for president.

The indoctrination into local politics was swift and, at times, unforgiving.

It wasn’t long before a man named George Zander introduced himself. He was a leader of the Desert Stonewall Democrats. At that particular moment in time, the concept of Stonewall Democrats was foreign.

He was patient, kind, passionate, and compassionate. He was smart. He could argue with the best and brightest minds and never raise his voice. He did not resort to foul language and personal attacks to make a point. He was a tireless proponents not only LGBT rights but all human rights.

This month, Pride Month, as so many commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, it seems only fitting to recognize and remember Zander.

On Dec. 10, 2015, Chris Zander posted news to his Facebook page that rocked the Palm Springs community and beyond. There, he announced that his husband — a high-profile and popular local LGBT activist and local Equality California field director George Zander—had died.

The void he left is immeasurable.

George and Chris Zander had been attacked on Nov. 1 near Calle Encilia and Tahquitz Canyon Way in Palm Springs after leaving Hunters Nightclub, which is located in the heart of gay nightlife. The heinous attack left George Zander, 71 at the time, with a double-fracture to his hip and subsequent surgery. Chris Zander was struck in the back of the head with a tire iron, suffered a concussion and needed staples in his head.

A coroner later ruled that Zander died of natural causes unrelated to the assault.

Two men pleaded guilty to felony charges for attacking the Zanders. One pleaded guilty to assault and admitted a hate crime allegation; the other pleaded guilty to assault.

Zander personified love. He loved to laugh. He loved to hug. He loved to be hugged.

He was example for all Stonewall Democrats – and more.

He was a teacher.

By the way, to this day, South Dakota has no LGBT Democratic Clubs. In fact, the Sioux Falls Pride Organization has announced its inaugural Pride parade in downtown Sioux Falls, S.D. It will be held June 15.


Image Sources

  • George Zander: Twitter