How Harvey Milk Changed the Gay Rights Movement

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The first gay supervisor elected in San Francisco,his name is Harvey Milk.

First off, congratulations and, I've neverseen anything like this.

Oh it's all over the city tonight.

What does this mean, your election, your activitynow on the board of supervisor of San Francisco, does that mean as many straights are concernedthat maybe the gays are taking over San Francisco.

Are you going to be a supervisor for all thepeople? I have to be, that's what I was elected for,I have to be there to open up the dialogue to the sensitivity of all people, all theproblems.

The problems that effect this city effectall of us.

Harvey Milk moved to San Francisco in 1972.

Born in Woodmere, NY on May 22nd, 1930, hespent most of his life in the closet, until deciding to start a new life with long timepartner Scott Smith, eventually becoming the first non-incumbent openly gay man to be electedto office in United States history, and while he only served in office for the less thanone year before his assassination, he forever altered the trajectory of the gay rights movement,the ripples of which we can still see today.

But to understand the significance of whatHarvey Milk accomplished, we first need a better understanding of the historical contextthat preceded him.

San Francisco had long been a haven for theLGBT community, due to many veterans being given a "blue discharge", neither honorablenor dishonorable, it was disproportionally used to discharge homosexuals from serviceuntil 1947 when it was discontinued.

Upon receiving this "blue ticket", many decidedto stay in these port cities like San Francisco, rather than return home where they'd likelyface shame or persecution.

Fast forward a decade and you've got the Beatpoets challenging the social norms of middle class conservative values, a cultural shiftwas happening in urban areas all over the country as the youth flocked to these placeswhere a different sort of lifestyle would be permissable.

But while many found sanctuary in places likeSan Francisco, it wasn't exactly paradise.

If you open those doors, the Merchant's Associationwill have the police pull your license.

Under what law? Excuse me? There's man's law, and there's God's law inthis neighborhood and in this city.

You know we pay taxes.

San Francisco police force is happy to enforceeither.

Have a good day.

From 1952 until 1973, homosexuality was listedas a "mental disorder" by the American Psychiatric Association, citing a "pathological hiddenfear of the opposite sex caused by traumatic parent-child relationships.

" Worse than that, homosexual acts themselveswere illegal in every state until 1962 when Illinois became the first state to changethat, nearly a decade before any other state.

It wasn't until 2003, with the Supreme CourtCase Lawrence vs.

Texas that sodomy laws were finally repealed on a federal level.

For decades, the narrative was that homosexualitywas a form of sexual perversion, comparable to pedophilia or beastiality, and anyone caughtengaging in homosexual activity was treated as sub-human by nearly every aspect of society.

What Jimmy didn't know was that Ralph wassick, a sickness that was not visible like smallpox but no less dangerous and contagious,a sickness of the mind.

You see, Ralph was a homosexual.

Many were denied housing, employment, theywere often threatened or arrested or beaten, and often times even murdered simply for beinggay, not to mention the horrific medical procedures that claimed to "cure" homosexuality.

This invovled showing the gay man picturesof nude males and shocking him with a strong electric current, and in a short period oftime he will be unable to get sexually aroused to the pictures.

Gay people who were sentenced to medical institutionsbecause they were found to be sexual psychopaths were subjected sometimes to sterilization,occassionally to castration, sometimes to medical procedures such as lobotomies whichwere felt by some doctors to cure homosexuality and other sexual diseases.

It seemed that no matter where they went,they were faced with hateful rhetoric from conservative or religious organizations thatdenied their very humanity, but San Francisco was different, the Kinsey Institute believedthere to be more gay people per capita than any other American city, and with so manyopenly gay men and women living in the area, many continued to flock to the city, to findsolace within a growing sense of community for the first time in their lives.

Then in 1969, there was the Stonewall Uprisingin New York City.

Tired of being persecuted in the one placethey felt safe, the many gay men and women who frequented the Stonewall Inn of GreenwichVillage fought back for the first time.

One year later, to commemorate the the oneyear anniversary of the event, the country's first Gay Pride parades took place simultaneouslyin New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago.

By 1972 the annual march had seen cities likeWashington D.


, Detroit, and San Francisco join the movement.

But even then, their safe spaces were anythingbut safe.

Fruit was walking home with his trick andgot jumped, name's Robert Hillsborough, you know him? Thinking that the gay community should berepresented in public office, in 1973, Harvey Milk announced his run for City Supervisor.

My fellow degenerates.

I would like to announce my candicacy forSan Francisco City Supervisor.

And he lost.

But he tried again two years later, comingcloser than ever.

In 1976 he ran for State Assembly, losingagain, but.

More votes than ever! That used to make you laugh.

Despite losing, he had become a pillar ofthe community, a voice for the voiceless during an incredibly challenging time.

Even though more gay men and women were livingout in the open than ever before in American history, people like John Briggs and AnitaBryant were spearheading a fervor of their own.

I believe that more than ever before, thatthere are evil forces, round about us, even perhaps disguised as something good, thatwould want to tear down the very foundation of family unit that holds this country together.

But that never deterred the gay rights movement,it only emboldened it.

Anita Bryant did not win tonight, Anita Bryantbrought us together.

She is going to create a national gay force! And finally in 1977, Harvey Milk was electedas San Francisco City Supervisor, the first openly gay elected official in the state ofCalifornia, and the first non-incumbent openly gay man to win an election to office in thehistory of the United States.

Inaugurated on January 9th, 1978, he madeit his goal to be the voice for all, not just the gay community but the black community,the elderly, anyone who felt their voice wasn't being heard.

It didn't take long after his inaugurationto confront his first major challenge in the form of the John Briggs Initiative, or Proposition6.

A proposed law that would ban any and allgay or lesbian teachers from working in California schools, as well as anyone who was known toeven just support homosexuality.

If passed, it would likely set a precedentto allow legislated bigotry across the nation, setting the gay rights movement back by decades.

By every indication the polls showed Prop6 leading by a wide margin, but Harvey Milk had a plan.


You must come out! Come out to your parents, come out to yourfriends if indeed they are your friends, come out to your neighbors, come out to your fellowworks, once and for all, let's break down the myths, and destroy the lies and distortion! He understood the power inherent in sheernumbers, that if those who supported Prop 6 knew just one gay person, it could changeeverything.

So he set out to challenge those living inthe closet to come out, once and for all.

As well as tackling some of the leading misconceptionsabout homosexuality in public debate with John Briggs.

I was born of heterosexual parents, I wastaught by heterosexual teachers, in a fiercely heterosexual society, television ads and newspaperads, fiercely heterosexual, a society that puts down homosexuality, then why am I homosexual? If I'm effected by role models? I should have been a heterosexual, and nooffense but if teachers are effectual as role models there'd be a lot of nuns running aroundthe streets today.

While Prop 6 had initially been showing strongsigns of support from all over the country, the opposition was growing stronger everyday, even winning support from politicians like Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter.

And then they got the results.

Unfortunately, it wasn't long after this historicwin, that everything was about to change.

As President of the Board of Supervisors it'smy duty to make this announcement you that both Mayor Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milkhave been shot and killed.

Thousands of people gathered for a candelitmarch to be held in their honor, filling up all of Market Street on the way to City Hall.

Even though Harvey Milk only served in publicoffice for ten months, he helped to propel the Gay Rights agenda to a national stage,which helped change the conversation in households across the country.

Because he understood that the only way tochange the misconceptions about homosexuality was to create a dialogue, and for better orworse that's exactly what he did, in life and in death.

And look at how far we've come? On June 26, 2015 the United States SupremeCourt ruled in the case of Obergefell vs.

Hodges that same-sex marriage is protectedby the 14th Ammendment of the Constitution.

A dream I'm sure many thought they would neverbe alive to see.

But all this reminds us that history is beingmade, every single day, and you can be a part of it.

Harvey Milk spent 40 years living a life ofsecrecy until deciding to do something, and look at how much he accomplished in just afew years.

It also reminds us that progress is slow,breaking down centuries or millenia even, of misconceptions and fears isn't going tobe done overnight, it takes time, patience, and creating a dialogue, but all it takesis a look at our history to see that the side that fights for love, peace, and understandingalways wins out, eventually.

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