San Francisco

San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus Raising Money for Tour Security

San Francisco's Gay Men's Chorus is about to embark on a journey through some of the most conservative pockets of the United States.

The group is a month out form a trip they say will take the "public conversation to a higher plane" than what we have seen. After what happened in Charlottesville, the chorus is ramping up their security and raising more money for the costly trip.

The Lavender Pen Tour will feature performances from a San Francisco institution all over the southern United States, but the performance might be the least prominent part of what they are hoping to accomplish.

"We'rre going to listen. I think so much about this trip that's going to beneficial for our membership is to go to these places to see how our community lives in these particular areas where they don't have supportive governments," said Tom Paulino, the co-chair for the Lavender Pen Tour.

Tour organizers want to break from a Bay Area bubble and permeate areas of the country coping with discrimination.

"When the chorus first started 40 years ago, we didn't have gay marriage," said Steve Huffines, the choir's board chair. "No one envisioned that it would ever be possible, much less legal nationwide."

To preserve those rights the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus is taking on risk. The group is calling on supporters to donate to double the security for their trip.

"We're going to do everything we can do to keep everyone who's going on the tour as safe as possible," Huffines said. "And a significant change to that happened when we saw what happened in Charlottesville."

The group's tour will also take them to Jackson, Mississippi and Birmingham, Alabama. Members will be able to meet people in person at churches, performance halls and auditoriums while on tour.

University of San Francisco professor Kimberly Richman, who specializes in the sociology of law, said years of data supports this kind of outreach.

"We've seen time and time again in research and in experience that the best way to win someone over to support your rights is by simply letting them get to know you as a person," Richman said.

The trip will cost north of $1 million and is called the Lavender Pen Tour because of the pen Harvey Milk gave Mayor George Moscone to sign one of the first LGBT protection laws in the country.

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