Judi Doyle, Long Beach Pride cofounder, dies at 78

Judi Doyle

Judi Doyle’s achievements were recognized in 2015 when she was honored at Harvey Milk Park and her name inducted into Equality Park. The space is reserved for LGBTQ+ people in the Long Beach area who have fought against discrimination and for equal rights. Photo: Brennan Doyle

Nothing quite says Gay Pride like wearing a bulletproof vest while marching in the Long Beach Pride Parade.

In 1985, Long Beach Pride President Judi Doyle received a threatening voice message. A few weeks before the Long Beach Gay and Lesbian Pride Parade, Doyle listened to a message on the answering machine at the Long Beach Pride office.

The caller told Doyle she would be shot if she walked the parade route along Ocean Boulevard.

Doyle remembers the caller’s threat: You slipped by us the first year, but it’s not going to be easy this time. We suggest you don’t march this year. There could be someone who will take you down. There will be plenty of us there.

“It was chilling and frightening,” Doyle told Q Voice News in a 2018 interview. “But they weren’t very articulate.”

Long Beach Gay and Lesbian Pride, the nonprofit group that runs the festival and parade, was cofounded in 1983 by Doyle, Bob Crow, and Marilyn Barlow. One year later, they organized the first parade along Ocean Boulevard. A few hundred people attended, and only a few people protested, Doyle said.

Wear a bulletproof vest

When Doyle reported the threat to the Long Beach Police Department, officials told her that she would have to wear a protective vest while marching in the parade.

“I didn’t have a death wish, and I didn’t want to be a martyr. I did consider the dangers,” Doyle said. “But I came to a place where I decided I wouldn’t live in fear.”

A few days later, Doyle, wearing her bulletproof vest, joined 600 marchers along the parade route. Approximately 3,000 spectators lined Ocean Boulevard, and nobody shot at her. A few people; however, threw eggs at the participants, Doyle said.

Eventually, Long Beach Pride grew into the city’s second largest attended event.

Confronting hate and threats against the LGBTQ+ community are a part of Doyle’s legacy.

Her achievements were recognized in 2015 when Doyle was honored at Harvey Milk Park and her name inducted into Equality Park Memorial Wall. The space is reserved for LGBTQ+ people in the Long Beach area who have fought against discrimination and for equal rights.

Long Beach Pride Parade

Members of Long Beach Lesbian and Gay Pride march in a parade in the mid 1980s. Photo: Long Beach Lesbian and Gay Pride.

Passed ‘peacefully in her sleep’

Judi Doyle passed away “peacefully in her sleep” Feb. 8 in Yucaipa, said her son, Brennan Doyle, 51. She was 78.

Judi, who had lived in Yucaipa with her son and his family since 2015, was diagnosed with dementia several years ago and eventually developed other health issues, Brennan said.

Judi was admitted to the hospital in December, and rapidly declined. She died from complications of Alzheimer’s disease, Brennan said.

Judi’s achievements will live forever.

“My mother was a very powerful force of nature,” Brennan said. “As she discovered who she was, she discovered her passion for fighting for others and their right to whom they were meant to be.

“She was very much an activist and a civil rights pioneer,” he said.

Judi Doyle Long Beach Pride

“My mother was a very powerful force of nature,” Brennan said. “As she discovered who she was, she discovered her passion for fighting for others and their right to whom they were meant to be.
“She was very much an activist and a civil rights pioneer.” Photo: Brennan Doyle

Fighting, beating city hall

Judi Doyle also fought and beat city officials who wanted to block the parade in the 1980s. In 1985, the city told Long Beach Pride officials that they needed $1 million in liability insurance; however, Long Beach Pride received a court injunction allowing them to have the parade without a permit.

When Long Beach Pride discovered the city had waived or reduced the insurance requirement for other groups, Long Beach Pride, with the help of the ACLU, sued the city for discrimination. 

“Judi was not going to be bullied. She was willing to meet every obstacle with a fight,” said Shelly Doyle, Judi’s partner from 1996 to 2010. “She wanted to benefit the community. ”

Pride organizers secured liability insurance in 1987 and subsequent years.

In 1991, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled that Long Beach’s ordinance requiring liability insurance on the basis of a parade’s subject matter was unconstitutional and violated the First Amendment.

The city appealed the decision, but the California Court of Appeals upheld the lower court ruling.

The city eventually agreed to develop uniform requirements.

Personal legal fight

Around the same time the Long Beach Pride lawsuit was in court, Doyle, who was president five years at Long Beach Pride, was embroiled in a personal legal battle.

In 1986, Doyle, who was a licensed family therapist, was sued by a former client, Patricia Lamis, who said Doyle had a sexual relationship with her.

Doyle acknowledged the relationship, but said it started four months after Lamis’ therapy ended. She said Lamis initiated a romantic relationship in April 1983 that lasted through the end of the year, according to legal documents.

Doyle said she made a thorough professional assessment of her former client’s state of mind to confirm that Lamis didn’t consider their relationship a therapeutic one, according to legal documents.

Lamis, on the other hand, said she always considered Doyle her therapist, even after their formal therapy sessions had ended, according to legal documents.

In her civil suit filed and a complaint to the state Board of Behavioral Science Examiners, which licenses family therapists, Lamis said that her romantic involvement with Doyle caused great emotional pain and confusion, making it impossible to continue her career and was a factor in her unemployment, according to legal documents.

In July of 1990, Doyle’s therapy license was revoked, and she lost appeal for reinstatement.

The following month, the lawyers reached a settlement giving Lamis a six figure compensation for emotional, mental, and career damages, according to legal documents.

Early years

Judi was born August 18, 1943, and grew up in Downey, graduating from Downey High School in 1961.

Judi met Richard Doyle in 1963 when they were students at Long Beach City College. They married two years later and attended Long Beach State and moved to Long Beach.

They had one son, Brennan.

Judi and Richard divorced in 1971.

Judi graduated from Long Beach State with her bachelor’s degree in theater arts in 1975 and her master’s degree two years later in psychology.

Judi also came out as lesbian to her son.

“My mother came out to me when I was probably about 3 or 4 years old,” Brennan. “As the story goes, since I would not really remember, she simply explained that she loved a woman, Jane Desmond (now deceased), and that we were going to live together as a family. I grew up in both worlds, you might say.”

Long Beach Pride is formed

As Judi lived her own truth, she developed more confidence, Brennan said.

“At 6-feet tall, she was already a physical presence,” he said. “As she became more confident in herself and her purpose, she showed no fear and bravely spoke out for her life and her beliefs,” Brennan said.

“In the early 1980s, she had already joined Southern California Women for Understanding to work for lesbian rights and visibility,” Brennan said. “Then she and her fellow founders began the push to have the Long Beach Pride Parade and Festival.”

Shelly said Judi’s involvement with Long Beach Pride was the right fit.

“Judi was the force,” Shelly said. “She was a natural born leader. She had the activist mentality. She was a person of stature in Long Beach. She was well-known in the gay and lesbian community.”

Shelly added: “Judi was kind and strong. She was strong in her convictions. She wanted equal rights. She wanted people to be loved and accepted.”

‘Great love of my life’

Shelly and Judi moved from Long Beach to Palm Springs in 2000, four years after they met. They remained a couple another 10 years before growing apart, Shelly said.

Shelly and Judi also were registered as domestic partners.

“Judi was a great love of my life,” Shelly said.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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