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Charles McKain, pioneer in San Diego LGBT politics, dies at age 65

SAN DIEGO -- Considered by some to be a "pioneer" in San Diego LGBT politics, Charles McKain ("Charlie") died Saturday, March 17. He was 65 years old.

McKain retired as a staff attorney for the Fourth District of the California Court of Appeal. He graduated from Hoover High School in 1963, and went on to earn a history degree from Stanford University and Juris Doctorate from the UCLA School of Law. He was an active member in many local Democratic Clubs, and served on the board of the San Diego Democratic Club, now known as San Diego Democrats for Equality, for many years.

“Charlie was a pioneer in San Diego LGBT politics,” said Doug Case, president of San Diego Democrats for Equality. “During the 1990-91 San Diego City Council redistricting process, he created proposed boundaries for the Third District that united communities with a high concentration of LGBT voters. The City Council adopted most of his map, paving the way for the election of Christine Kehoe, San Diego’s first LGBT member of the City Council.”

He played a significant role in progressive politics during his time serving on the Executive, Rules and Credentials Committees of the California Democratic Party. In 1980, he was also one of the first openly gay delegates from San Diego to the Democratic National Convention, and also was elected as a delegate in 1992, 1996 and 2000. He also was a member and leader of the San Diego Democratic Central Committee.

“After 30 years as an active and vital member of the San Diego County Democratic Central Committee, Charlie was given Lifetime Membership status on the Central Committee – a recognition that is reserved for a limited few who are truly dedicated individuals and whose leadership of the Party proved critical to our success,” noted Jess Durfee, Chair of the San Diego County Democratic Party.

Charlie was also an avid basketball player, playing in as may as four leagues a week, including San Diego Hoops, the gay league. The high point of his basketball experience was playing in the 2002 Gay Games in Sydney, Australia for the San Diego team.

McKain received many honors for his work, including the San Diego Democratic Club Political Action and Lifetime Achievement Awards, the Henry Auerbach Democrat of the Year Award from the San Diego County Democratic Party, and being recognized when the San Diego City Council declared July 8, 2008 as “Charles McKain Day.”

Survived by his husband Robert McWilliams and sister Charlyne, McKain and McWilliams were together for 36 years, and lived in San Diego’s Sunset Cliffs neighborhood, where they regularly opened up their home for political events and fundraisers. They became legally married in California in June of 2008.

According to Case, state senator Christine Kehoe and state assemblymember Toni Atkins have each arranged for today's sessions of the State Assembly and State Senate to be adjourned today in McKain's memory. City Councilmember Todd Gloria plans to do the same at today's city council meeting.

Memorial service plans are pending.