To celebrate LGBT History Month in February 2016, Touchstone will profile a significant figure from LGBT history each week.
Harvey Bernard Milk was an American politician who became the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California, when he won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
Milk began his tenure by sponsoring a civil rights bill that outlawed discrimination based on sexual orientation. The ordinance was called the “most stringent and encompassing in the nation”, and its passing demonstrated “the growing political power of homosexuals”, according to The New York Times!
Harvey served less than a year in public office before his brutal assassination but his life profoundly changed a city, state, nation and a global community. His courage, passion and sense of justice rocked a country and stirred the very core of a put down and pushed out community, bringing forward new hope and a new vision of freedom.
Despite his short career in politics, Milk became an icon in San Francisco and a martyr in the gay community. In 2002, Milk was called “the most famous and most significantly open LGBT official ever elected in the United States”. Anne Kronenberg, his final campaign manager, wrote of him: “What set Harvey apart from you or me was that he was a visionary. He imagined a righteous world inside his head and then he set about to create it for real, for all of us.” Milk was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.