Harvey Milk’s election in 1977 as one of the world’s first openly gay elected officials symbolized the freedom to live life with authenticity to millions of LGBTQ people around the world. Harvey served less than a year in public office before his brutal assassination. The growing welcome for LGBTQ people in the Presbyterian Church (USA) grows out of a great cloud of witnesses throughout history in both the Church and in the world.
Signed in 2009 by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, S.B. 572 established Harvey Milk Day on May 22 each year. S.B. 572 states, “Perhaps more than any other modern figure, Harvey Milk’s life and political career embody the rise of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) civil rights movement in California, across the nation, and throughout the world.” The bill encourages all California public schools to “conduct suitable commemorative exercises remembering the life of Harvey Milk and recognizing his accomplishments as well as the contributions he made to this state.”
President Obama honored Harvey Milk posthumously with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.
His name was Harvey Milk, and he was here to recruit us — all of us — to join a movement and change a nation. For much of his early life, he had silenced himself. In the prime of his life, he was silenced by the act of another. But in the brief time in which he spoke — and ran and led — his voice stirred the aspirations of millions of people. He would become, after several attempts, one of the first openly gay Americans elected to public office. And his message of hope — hope unashamed, hope unafraid — could not ever be silenced. It was Harvey who said it best: “You gotta give ’em hope.” …
Harvey Bernard Milk dedicated his life to shattering boundaries and challenging assumptions. As one of the first openly gay elected officials in this country, he changed the landscape of opportunity for the nation’s gay community. Throughout his life, he fought discrimination with visionary courage and conviction. Before his tragic death in 1978, he wisely noted, “Hope will never be silent,” and called upon Americans to stay true to the guiding principles of equality and justice for all. Harvey Milk’s voice will forever echo in the hearts of all those who carry forward his timeless message.
This year the White House will celebrate Harvey Milk Day by recognizing a group of outstanding LGBTQ state and local elected and appointed officials as “Harvey Milk Champions of Change.” The White House Champions of Change Program regularly spotlights ordinary citizens who are doing extraordinary things for to their community, their country, and their fellow citizens.
The 2013 Harvey Milk Champions of Change are:
- Simone Bell – Georgia State Representative, Atlanta, GA
- Angie Buhl O’Donnell – South Dakota State Senator, Sioux Falls, SD
- Karen Clark – Minnesota State Representative, South Minneapolis, MN
- Michael A. Gin – Mayor of Redondo Beach, Redondo Beach, CA
- Kim Coco Iwamoto – Hawaii State Civil Rights Commissioner, Honolulu, HI
- John Laird – California Secretary of Natural Resources, Santa Cruz, CA
- Ricardo Lara – California State Senator, Long Beach, CA
- Kim Painter – Johnson Country Recorder, Iowa City, IA
- Chris Seelbach – Cincinnati City Council Member, Cincinnati, OH
- Pat Steadman – Colorado State Senator, Denver, CO
Brief biographies of the winners are available at the New Civil Rights Movement.
Reminiscent of the bias Harvey Milk challenged in his own lifetime, SaveCalifornia.com bought more than 100 time slots for a radio ad to oppose Harvey Milk Day 2013. The ads urge parents to “protect your children from Harvey Milk indoctrination” by keeping them home from school on Wednesday.
“You Gotta Give ‘Em Hope.”