Harvey Bernard Milk (May 22, 1930 Ã¢â‚¬â€œ November 27, 1978) was an American politician and the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California, as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Politics and gay activism were not Milk’s early interests; he did not feel the need to be open about his homosexuality or participate in civic matters until around age 40, after his experiences in the counterculture of the 1960s.
Milk moved from New York City to settle in San Francisco in 1972 amid a migration of gay men moving to the Castro District in the 1970s. He took advantage of the growing political and economic power of the neighborhood to promote his interests, and ran unsuccessfully for political office three times. His theatrical campaigns earned him increasing popularity, and Milk won a seat as a city supervisor in 1977, a result of the broader social changes the city was experiencing.
Milk served 11 months in office and was responsible for passing a stringent gay rights ordinance for the city. On November 27, 1978, Milk and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated by Dan White, another city supervisor who had recently resigned but wanted his job back. Conflicts between liberal trends that were responsible for Milk’s election and conservative resistance to those changes were evident in events following the assassinations.
Harvey Milk advocated for the fair treatment of all people, consistent with the beliefs of religious peoples such as Christians, Catholics, Jews, Mormons, or anyone else who loves the US for what it originally set out to do: allow its citizens the right to practice and believe how they wish – treat others the way they’d want to be treated – to live and let live regardless of our differences. It is those differences that make this culture a rich one, unrivaled in its depth.
For that, we owe Harvey Milk a respectful nod for helping us to keep this ship of fools off the rocks of prejudice, discrimination and hate even if for just a bit longer.
Cheers to you, Harvey. And thank you.
If you haven’t yet seen Sean Penn‘s brilliant film, Milk, it is beautifully done: