Current Affairs

“Gay JFK” to be honoured with bust

Tony Grew January 11, 2007
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Harvey Milk, the first out gay male politician in American history, is to be honoured with a bust in San Francisco City Hall.

Milk, known during his lifetime as “The Mayor of Castro Street,” is regarded as a political icon amongst gay activists for his ability to build the LGBT community into a grassroots political force.

Milk was elected to the city’s Board of Supervisors in 1977.

In his 11 months in office he sponsored a gay rights bill and helped to defeat a proposition that would have seen openly gay and lesbian teachers sacked.

He was gunned down at City Hall by Dan White, a disgruntled former Supervisor, on November 27th 1978.

White also killed the city’s mayor in his gun rampage.

Three final designs have been chosen for a bust of Harvey Milk and the winner will be revealed at the end of this month.

The bust will go on permanent display in San Francisco City Hall, a rare honour for someone who never held the position of Mayor.

In 2001 the Board of Supervisors voted to install a sculpture of Milk inside City Hall. The Bob Ross Foundation donated most of the $84,000 cost, with individuals and other groups providing the rest of the funding.

It will be a permanent reminder of the unique place the city of San Francisco had in forming a new, politically active gay identity in the 1970s.

Milk had foreseen his own untimely death, and made several audio tapes to be played if he was assassinated.

One had recorded upon it his most famous statement, “If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door.”

When White only received seven years in jail for Milk’s murder, San Francisco’s gay community rioted. More than 160 people were injured.

Since his death, Harvey Milk has come to be seen as a gay martyr.

His calls for equal rights for gay people and his popularity with voters, along with his tragic assassination, have led some to compare him to President John F Kennedy.

Many gay and lesbian community institutions are named in his honour, among them the Harvey Milk Plaza in San Francisco, the Harvey Milk Institute, the Harvey Milk Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Democratic Club, and the Harvey Milk High School in New York City.

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