If a bullet should enter my brain,
let that bullet destroy every closet door.
Gay San Francisco City Supervisor
Murdered on this day, 1978, age 48
Harvey Milk was the first openly Gay person to run for public office in San Francisco. He was elected in 1977. Harvey served almost 11 months in office and was responsible for passing a stringent gay rights ordinance for the city. On November 27, 1978, Milk and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated by Dan White, another city supervisor who had recently resigned but wanted his job back. Anne Kronenberg, his final campaign manager, wrote of him: "What set Harvey apart from you or me was that he was a visionary. He imagined a righteous world inside his head and then he set about to create it for real, for all of us." Milk was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.
In a horrible miscarriage of justice, White was acquitted of First Degree murder by a jury of reportedly mostly white middle-class Catholics; Gays and ethnic minorities were excluded from the jury pool. His lawyer argued that White had binged on sugar the night before; it became infamous as the Twinkie defense. He was sentenced to 7 and served only 5 years, and later committed suicide.
In my theological view and in my own Life, Harvey was a Christ-figure. The essential core of the Christian Story is Jesus’ sacrificial Love, His willingness to suffer and to give up His own life for God’s people. Christianity sees in this a great Mystery: that Jesus’ love and self-giving unto death opens the possibility for all people to be freed from all that is anti-Life …. including the fear of Death, hate, division, injustice, indifference, dehumanization. The Gospel says, “He died to set us free”.
Harvey I think understood that running for political office and fighting for justice for Gayfolk put him in danger. Jesus saw the danger in His challenge to the corrupt powerful of His day, to those who co-opted God to their own ungodly ends.
Jesus’ death, and Harvey’s, are not magic. They don’t give us a free ride to Freedom or exempt each of us from walking the path. But they show us the way. I was out as a Gay man in my teens; but after Harvey’s death, I never again hid that reality in my life in the Church …. just as I never doubted my worth when I came to see how unconditionally I was beloved by God … by a God many today still try to co-opt to their deathly ways.
Thank you Harvey for helping me to stand up for what I believe about myself, about God, and about good folk everywhere.