Statue of gay rights hero to be unveiled next week

Tony Grew May 14, 2008
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Harvey Milk, the first out gay male politician in American history, is to be honoured with a statue in San Francisco City Hall.

The memorial will be unveiled next Thursday, on what would have been his 78th birthday.

It is a rare honour for someone who never held the position of Mayor and 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, known during his lifetime as The Mayor of Castro Street, is regarded as a political icon among gay activists for his ability to build the LGBT community into a grassroots political force. He 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.

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.

Sean Penn is playing Milk in an upcoming biopic.

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