Steven Finger is not a gay historian.
He didn't even know what "Stonewall" was until he Googled it after voters approved Proposition 8, the same-sex marriage ban.
Most historians trace the beginning of the modern gay civil rights movement to a police raid in Greenwich Village that led to rioting at the Stonewall Inn in 1969.
But that year can't be right, he thought.
When he bought the Los Angeles Free Press a couple of years back, he flipped through the archives looking for "hippy news" but instead stumbled across story after story about gays in Southern California protesting and pressing for civil rights. Those stories were about two years before Stonewall.
Documented in black and white are the first gay church, gay marriages, a gay-in and gay protests against signs at Barney's Beanery that told gays to "stay out."
"Straights will say it's all about sex, not civil rights," said Finger, publisher and owner of the online alternative publication.
"But, a ... "stay out' sign is really like a 'whites only' sign. There really is no difference. It's as blatant a prejudice as can be.
"What we're talking about is more than history. There was a bona fide civil rights movement that's not looked at that way because there's even less tolerance for gays than for blacks.
"No one has the full history because no one had the full archives."
Finger will exclusively display several historical articles and photos from the late 1960s documenting the gay struggle for civil rights at 7 p.m. today at the Desert Pride Community Center in Palm Springs. The event is free to the public.
Same-sex marriage is an issue that resonates in the Palm Springs area, which boasts one of the largest gay communities per capita in the U.S.
More than 1,200 same-sex couples married in the valley between June 17, the first day gays could legally marry, and Nov. 4, when voters approved a gay marriage ban.
Jack Newby, Desert Pride Community Center executive director, said the articles are particularly poignant in light of the struggle for marriage equality.
"It allows us to view the setbacks with Proposition 8 in light of how far we've come," Newby said. "It shows us how far we've come in 40 years and how far we need to go."
Proposition 8 was the voter initiative in November that overturned a state Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage. The high court will consider whether to nullify the marriage ban next month.
Proposition 8 passed with 52 percent of the vote statewide and 64 percent in Riverside County. Palm Springs was the only valley city to oppose the measure.
Since the ballot box defeat, gay community leaders have spoken critically of the No on Prop. 8 campaign, saying it didn't do enough to frame the vote as a civil rights issue for black and Latino voters, who largely supported the measure, according to exit polls.
"This is going to come up for a vote again and unless the public understands that this is a civil rights issue, they're going to vote it down," Finger said.
Established in 1964 and now headquartered in Palm Desert, the Free Press is often credited as being the nation's first underground newspaper.