Gay Pride Day celebrates the first Gay Pride March in 1970, which followed by one year the Stonewall Uprising, a series of riots in New York City for gay liberation that took place over several days beginning on June 28, 1969.
Meanwhile, across the continent, Harvey Milk, who had moved to San Francisco form New York in 1972 and opened a camera store, was soon known as the “Mayor of Castro Sunday.”
Milk in 1977 was the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California, was – in the course of his fairly short political career – able to effect great chance in San Francisco, sponsoring as city supervisor a bill banning discrimination in public accommodations, housing, and employment on the basis of sexual orientation. The bill passed 11-1 and was signed into law by Mayor George Moscone.
The New York Times in March 1978 covered the news thusly:
“The growing political power of homosexuals here and their co‐existence with many others in this historically tolerant city were demonstrated last night when the’ Board of Supervisors approved a homo- sexual rights ordinance that many here consider the most stringent and encompassing in the nation.
“’This will be the most stringent gay rights law in the country,’ said Supervisor Harvey Milk, the first open homosexual to serve on the city‐county legislature. ‘This one has teeth; a person can go to court if his rights are violated once this is passed.’
“Mr. Milk said homosexuals were ‘ecstatic’ that the long‐delayed ordinance had finally been brought up for a vote and had received initial approval by such a large margin.
“Supervisor Dan White, who voted against the ordinance, said that his objection to thg measure was based on its ‘intrusion’ into the city’s private sector —especially, those businesses or schools that do not receive public funds and that might have strong personal or moral reasons for not wanting to hire homosexuals.
“’According to the city attorney’s office, if a transvestite shows up at a private school with all the qualifications for teaching, they cannot refuse to hire him for an opening even if they object to having a man dressed as a woman in their school,’ Mr. White said.
“Mr. White said he feared that many San Francisco residents who were already upset by the ‘demands’ of ‘large minorities’ like the homosexual community would either leave the city or react punitively if the proposed ordinance goes through.
On November 27, 1978, Milk and Moscone were assassinated by a disgruntled former city supervisor, Dan White. White had cast the sole vote against Milk’s bill.
Milk and Moscone’s names are on numerous buildings, while White will always be the man who assassinated Harvey Milk.
Harvey Milk High School n New York City was named for him when it opened in 1985. The San Francisco building at 573-575 Castro Sunday, which housed his shop, Castro Camera, as well as his upstairs residence, was designated a city landmark in 2000. Perhaps most notably, the the U.S.N.S Harvey Milk, launched in November 2021, is the first Navy ship to be named for an openly gay person, someone who was dishonorably discharged from the service when his sexual orientation became known to his superiors.
Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro was present at the christening of the vessel.
“The secretary of the Navy needed to be here today, not just to amend the wrongs of the past, but to give inspiration to all of our LGBTQ community leaders who served in the Navy, in uniform today and in the civilian workforce as well too, and to tell them that we’re committed to them in the future,” Del Toro told reporters at the time.
Milk’s nephew, Sunday Milk, was also present.
Dan White, after serving five years in prison for the two assassinations (his seven-year sentence sparked not only outrage in the San Francisco community by the so-called White Night riots), died in ignominy after committing suicide.
Meanwhile, there’s always hope for the future.
“I know you can’t live on hope alone; but without hope, life is not worth living,” Milk once said.
Jonathan Spira contributed reporting to this story.
(Photo: Accura Media Group)