Celebrating Pride in June, we throw a great big spotlight on historic activist HARVEY MILK (1930-1978), who was more than just the first openly gay elected official in California. He was also the most active and influential pro-LGBTQ+ politician in America at the time. Without him and his courageous and fearless legacy, it’s arguable whether the community would enjoy its current social and legal position.
“You have to give them hope,” he said of the nation’s gay youth in his famous ‘Hope Speech’.
Sponsoring a bill that would ban discrimination in employment and public spaces on the basis of sexual orientation, he convinced city supervisors to pass it by a vote of 11–1, after which it was signed into law by Mayor George Moscone. Sadly, on November 27, 1978, Milk and Moscone were assassinated by Dan White, a disgruntled city supervisor.
Chillingly predicting his assassination, he once wrote: “I cannot prevent anyone from getting angry, or mad, or frustrated. I can only hope that they'll turn that anger and frustration and madness into something positive, so that two, three, four, five hundred will step forward, so the gay doctors will come out, the gay lawyers, the gay judges, gay bankers, gay architects ... I hope that every professional gay will say 'enough', come forward and tell everybody, wear a sign, let the world know.”
Arriving on the public scene less than a decade after the Civil Rights movement of the 60s, Milk was as important to the forward march of human rights as Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and feminist trailblazer Gloria Steinem. While he accomplished much in his short political career, his death created waves of change that ripple into the present.
Check out ‘The Life and Times of Harvey Milk’ and the 2008 Oscar-nominated film ‘Milk’ starring Sean Penn.