Harvey Milk

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Harvey Milk, the first openly gay public official in California, served only eleven months on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, a far shorter span of time than the five years he spent campaigning. During his time in the city he helped turn the Castro neighborhood into a powerful economic and political force, an achievement that led him to style himself ‘The Mayor of Castro Street’ (also the name of Milk’s biography by journalist Randy Shilts); while in office, he helped champion a gay anti-discrimination law and a dog feces ordinance, and defeat a statewide ballot initiative that would have made firing gay teachers mandatory. Shortly before his assassination by a former fellow supervisor, Milk recorded three monologues, one containing a memorable, fatalistic line: “If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door in the country.”

Milk’s death and the subsequent (often misunderstood) leniency of his murderer’s sentence inspired the White Night Riots and enshrined him as a martyred figure in the gay popular consciousness. His name is now attached to one of two queer San Francisco Democratic Clubs, a nonprofit advocacy group, and a host of other works.

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