Honoring Harvey Milk

harvey_milk_stampYesterday, the United States Postal Service unveiled a stamp honoring Harvey Milk, the first openly gay person elected to public office in the United States.

Milk, elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977, was assassinated less than a year later along with San Francisco Mayor George Moscone.

The pair were shot and killed on November 27, 1978 by former City Supervisor Dan White.

After frequent clashes with Milk and other Supervisors, White resigned, citing dissatisfaction with the corrupt inner workings of politics. He soon changed his mind, though, and petitioned Mayor Moscone to regain his seat. Moscone ultimately declined this request, reportedly after pressure from Milk and others.

On November 27, 1978 Dan White climbed through a window at City Hall, avoiding metal detectors. He went first to Moscone’s office, fatally shooting the mayor. Done there, he headed to Milk’s office, shooting the City Supervisor five times.

As the New York Times reported in 1985, following White’s eventual suicide: Mr. Milk was one of the nation’s first acknowledged homosexuals to be elected to major public office, and many homosexuals said that was a factor in his death.

In his confession, White described his motivation, saying ”I saw the city as going kind of downhill.”

Following his trial, White was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter – a lesser charge than the first-degree murder which Milk supporters had hoped for.
Growing up, I was always told that White was let off the hook after his lawyers argued he’d been driven mad by eating too many Twinkies. While not not quite accurate, that’s how this “Twinkie defense” is remembered in collective culture. Too many Twinkies made him do it.The actual argument isn’t much better – that White’s switch to a sugary diet of Twinkies was indicative of the deep depression he was suffering.And all this American history is now captured on a 49 cent stamp bearing Harvey Milk’s face. Ironically, perhaps, labeled forever.The White House blog post announcing the stamp declared: Milk’s achievements gave hope and confidence to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community in the United States and elsewhere at a time when the community was encountering widespread hostility and discrimination. Milk believed that government should represent all citizens, ensuring equality and providing needed services.At a time when the community was encountering widespread hostility and discrimination.
At a time when…
Indeed.

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