Monday, December 22, 2008

The Story of Harvey Milk

Milk and San Francisco by John Parks.

There is a new movie coming out that will call attention to gay rights, San Francisco and Harvey Milk. Who is Harvey Milk and why does he deserve a movie?

Harvey Milk, born Harvey Bernard Milk, was the first openly homosexual man to be elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. He is the first openly homosexual man to be elected to any public office in California. He is responsible for passing very strict gay rights laws in San Francisco.

Milk was born on Long Island in 1930. He was a class clown who played football and when he was a teenager he realized that he was gay but did his best to keep it a secret. After graduating from Bay Shore High School in New York, Milk went to the New York State College for Teachers and graduated with a math major in 1951. After school he joined the Navy and served in the Korean War. Later he was transferred to San Diego and was discharged from the Navy in 1955.

After teaching stints in New York and Texas and a six year relationship with Joe Campbell (whom he met at the Jacob Riis Park in Queens) and spending time working as a researcher at Bache & Company, he decided to work on Barry Goldwater's presidential campaign.

He ended up moving to San Francisco in 1969 with his then partner Jack McKinley. Eventually McKinley moved back to New York and Milk decided to stay in San Francisco and started working for an investment firm. He was fired in 1970 when he refused to cut his hair.

Harvey Milk's foray into politics began after a state bureaucrat told him that he owed a one hundred dollar deposit against the state sales tax. Milk complained long enough at the state offices to get the fee dropped to thirty dollars but the bug had been planted. He became increasingly incensed at the way the schools were funded and national politics and, after trying to kick his television during the Watergate hearings, Milk decided to get involved in the political process.

Originally, the gay political community in San Francisco was not receptive to Milk's campaign. They felt he had not yet put in enough work in the community to deserve to run for office and, because of his strong stance against Alice, a few business owners decided to endorse Milk's candidacy in an attempt to thwart Alice's attempt to establish authority in the area.

Milk was a born politician and was good at building coalitions to work with him to accomplish his goals. He worked tirelessly to advocate gay rights and to advance homosexuals in the workplace. He helped the Castro neighborhood in San Francisco become what it is today.

Harvey Milk was assassinated on November 27, 1978 by Dan White who was desperate to regain his position as city supervisor.

With the recent passing of California's Prop 8, is it any wonder that San Francisco and the late Harvey Milk are in the national spotlight?

For more information on San Francisco, California, visit and

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