Harvey Milk

On this date in 1930, openly gay politician Harvey Milk was born in Woodmere, New York. Harvey attended school at the New York State College for Teachers in Albany, where he studied math and history. After being discharged from the United States Navy in 1955, Harvey spent subsequent years hiding his sexuality from his family and his work. During this time he was employed as a public school teacher, a stock analyst and a production assistant for Broadway musicals. Harvey didn't become active in politics until the age of 40 when he moved from New York City to the city of San Francisco in California. From there he opened a camera shop on Castro Street in the center of the city's growing gay community. In 1975 Harvey narrowly lost his second race as a candidate for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. In 1977 he easily won a third bid. During the peak of his political career, Harvey supported anti-discrimination bills, established day care centers for working mothers, converted military facilities into low-cost housing, and spoke out on state and national issues for LGBT peoples, women, racial and ethnic minorities and other marginalized communities. Harvey was assassinated alongside Mayor George Moscone by former city supervisor Dan White, an openly rabid opponent of gay rights. White was sentenced to only seven years and eight months in prison despite the fact that murder of public officials was subject to the death penalty. White was to later commit suicide.

Milk was very critical of organized religion and did not attend religious services. Randy Shilts wrote in The Mayor of Castro Street (2008) that “Harvey never had any use for organized religion.” In one of his recorded wills, Milk said of his funeral: “I hope there are no religious services. I would hope that there are no services of any kind, but I know some people are into that and you can’t prevent it from happening, but my god, nothing religious . . . I would turn over in my grave.” In 2008 Sean Penn starred in the biographical motion picture based on Harvey's life, "Milk." Harvey was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his iconic, influential and albeit short career. That same year Harvey was inducted in the California Hall of Fame, with May 22 designated as "Harvey Milk Day." D. 1978.

“The fact is that more people have been slaughtered in the name of religion than for any other single reason. That, that, my friends, that is true perversion!” 

—Harvey Milk, notes for his speech at the Gay Freedom Day Parade, June 25, 1978 (published in "The Mayor of Castro Street" by Randy Shilts, 2008).

Compiled by Sabrina Gaylor; Photo by Oldrich, Shutterstock.com

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