Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man elected to substantial political office, is now the first openly LGBT person - in U.S. history - to have a day named in their honor. On Saturday, May 22, 2010, and every May 22nd thereafter, Harvey Milk Day will be celebrated across the state of California to honor the legacy of Milk’s efforts on behalf of the LGBT community. Harvey Milk Day (which coincides with Milk’s birthday) is the result of a bill signed into law last October by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. The bill, specifically SB 572, was sponsored by Equality California (EQCA), and authored by state senator Mark Leno.
Equality California, an organization that advocates for LGBT equality across the state, plans to mark this inaugural celebration of Milk’s life with statewide door-to-door canvassing to build support for marriage equality in California.
Dustin Lance Black, the openly gay, Oscar-winning screenwriter of Milk (a biopic of Milk’s life) is among those who will go door-to-door on May 22nd with EQCA, and he’s encouraging others to join him.
“We’ll be doing what Harvey taught us to do – using the power of our personal stories, this time about why we, our parents, our children and our friends deserve the freedom to marry the people we love,” wrote Black in an open letter to would-be canvassers.
To hear more from Dustin Lance Black on the significance of Harvey Milk Day, please watch this short video:
About Harvey Milk
After three failed attempts, Harvey Milk was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977. He thus became the first openly gay person elected to political office – and at a time when being gay was still thought to be a “mental illness.” Milk’s life was tragically cut short on November 27, 1978 when he was shot twice in the head by fellow Supervisor Daniel White, an anti-gay conservative. Milk knew that his election to the board would outrage some people. He received numerous death threats, so many that he was motivated to record a will in which he recommended successors to his seat. That same recording included a haunting, now famous line: “If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door.” For more information on the life and times of Harvey Milk, check out his feature in Time Magazine’s report on The 100 Most Important People of the Century.