Harvey Milk was the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in a major city, serving on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors from 1977-1978. He worked to pass a gay rights ordinance and defeated Proposition 6, commonly known as the Briggs Initiative, which would have banned gays and lesbians from teaching in public schools. Milk encouraged Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people to be visible in society and believed coming out was the only way they could achieve true social equality.
Harvey Milk’s legacy as a civil rights leader is still felt today. He was named one of TIME Magazine’s most influential people of the 20th century. He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 and was the subject of a movie for which Sean Penn won the Academy Award for best actor. Many Institutions and organizations are named for Harvey Milk to commemorate his life and social contributions.
In October of 2009, Governor Schwarzenegger signed a bill to create a state day of recognition for Harvey Milk, to be observed on Harvey Milk’s birthday, May 22. May 22, 2010 marked the first Harvey Milk Day to commemorate the life and legacy of Milk. The civil rights leader would have been 85 this year.
“Harvey Milk gave his life for what he believed in, and with that courage and sacrifice he gave hope to an entire generation of gay and lesbian people whose basic humanity and freedom had been denied and dishonored.
"There’s no requirement of any school to do anything. We hope that Harvey Milk Day would provide for an opportunity for teachers to share with their students why the governor has declared May 22 to be a special day…. We believe that with this additional information, LGBT students would have ever more reason to be proud of who they are and that straight students would understand this has been a civil rights battle, and thereby raising their consciousness as well, likely decreasing the amount of violence and bullying that goes on.” – Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco)
Activities and Resources for Harvey Milk Day:
Using the Harvey Milk Story in Schools
Gay-Straight Alliance Network – Harvey Milk Day Events & Actions Around California