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Harvey Milk Day: Assassinated gay rights hero would have turned 88 today

Nick Duffy May 22, 2018

SAN FRANCISCO - MARCH 03: A photograph of the late gay activist Harvey Milk sits on a stand after a press conference announcing legislation to create a Harvey Milk Day in California March 3, 2009 in San Francisco, California. Actor Sean Penn and California State Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) announced legislation that will be introduced to create a Harvey Milk Day in California to recognize the efforts of the slain gay rights activist. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

People around the world are marking Harvey Milk Day, on what would have been the activist’s 88th birthday.

Milk, the first openly gay politician to be elected in America, was assassinated in November 1978.

The San Francisco politician had united the local gay community and made several attempts to get elected, making it onto the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977.

He only held his position for 11 months before being assassinated by a former supervisor Dan White.

Today, people remember the life’s work of Harvey Milk (Getty)

Milk’s rise to power and subsequent assassination was a watershed moment for the LGBT rights movement, sparking anger at the homophobic persecution still present in society.

Today, Milk is remembered as an LGBT rights hero. A plaza in San Francisco’s Castro District is dedicated to his memory, known as Harvey Milk Memorial Plaza.

This year it was announced that a terminal at San Fransisco International Airport is set to be renamed in his honour. Under the plan the airport’s Terminal 1, which is currently being reconstructed and expected to re-open in 2022 would be given the name.

LGBT campaigners had originally wanted the entire airport named after him – but airport supervisor Jeff Sheehy said it would have required a much longer battle.

“I know that’s what people were fighting for,” Sheehy told the SF Examiner. 

“The amount of effort that it would have taken to do that when we have a lot of things we need to work on in the community- it would have been fun to have it named after Harvey but what we have now if a good compromise.”

 

Harvey Milk would have been 88 today (Getty)

The State of California annually marks Harvey Milk’s birthday, May 22, as a statewide day of significance.

 

“Despite his short time in office, Milk’s contributions and influence the fight for LGBTQ equality live on in the work of activists and allies throughout the U.S. and around the world,’ The Human Rights Campaign has written.

“Milk envisioned a place where all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, are treated equally. HRC, as well as countless other LGBTQ organizations, pro-equality lawmakers and supporters, share that vision and strive every day to make full equality a reality for millions of LGBTQ people.

“During these uncertain times, it is more vital than ever that we, as a community, continue to work tirelessly towards achieving what Milk sacrificed his life for — equality and justice for all.”

Under President Barack Obama the day was marked at the highest level. The festivities were skipped last year as President Donald Trump was on an international trip.

Harvey Milk’s assassination in 1978 brought new interest in LGBT politics (Getty)

On Harvey Milk Day in 2014, the Postal Service launched a Harvey Milk memorial stamp at a White House ceremony.

The stamp was boycotted by anti-LGBT groups, with the American Family Association rejecting a $10 donation because it was sent in an envelope with a commemorative Harvey Milk stamp on.

Last year, a US Navy ship was named in honour of Harvey Milk.

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