With the US Presidential Election looming in 2020, and the potential for openly gay Democrat candidate Pete Buttigieg to become a frontrunner (let’s pray that the Bible Belt of America doesn’t hunt him down with pitchforks), I thought it would be apt to talk about another groundbreaking politician – Harvey Milk. Some of you may have seen the film about him entitled ‘Milk’, but if you’re coming into this post with absolutely no knowledge on this guy, then let me introduce you to him.
Harvey Milk was an American politician who became California’s first openly gay elected official in 1977. Moving to San Fransisco after participating in the Korean War, Milk started to gain a following in the gay community in the Castro District. After failing to get elected a few times, Milk persevered and eventually was successful. This was a landmark in American LGBT+ History! In a society that did (and still does) judge a person on their sexuality, race, religion and gender instead of their political ambition, the appointment of Milk was an oasis in a bigoted desert.
Tragically, Milk was assassinated (along with the Mayor) less than a year into the role by a previous official who held “diminished responsibility due to junk food”. Yes, you read that correctly. This murderer got convicted of voluntary manslaughter because his lawyers spun a story based on this man eating crap. VOLUNTARY MANSLAUGHTER! Obviously the LGBT+ community in San Fransisco were as infuriated as I am, and this sparked the ‘White Night Riots’. The aftermath of these riots resulted in a better relationship between law enforcement and the gay community. In 1984, Dan White (the murder) was released after serving 5 out of the 7 year sentence, and committed suicide a year later. In 2009, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (you know, the “I’ll be back” guy) created Harvey Milk Day on May 22nd in honour of Milk’s achievements.
Without these heroes who championed for a better future, we would not be in the political position we have today. Make no mistake though, the fight for equity and tolerance is not over – not until the drag queen sings.
Featured Image Credit 📷: Kon Karampelas