Entries from: San Francisco

Dream of a “Harvey Milk Airport” takes flight in S.F.

harveymilksfoHarvey Milk is among the world’s most well-known LGBT leaders, and now one elected official in San Francisco wants to make sure visitors and travelers who stop there understand how important his contributions were to the struggle for LGBT equality.

Openly gay San Francisco Supervisor David Campos has introduced legislation to honor Milk by adding his name to San Francisco International Airport, a hub for tens of millions of travelers every year.  His bill, which would send the question to the city’s voters, quickly gained four co-sponsors after its introduction. But there’s a lot of work left to do.

Campos recently spoke with Gay Politics about the effort and what it will take to make SFO the world’s first airport to be named for an LGBT person.

GP:  What exactly would your legislation do and how would it eventually lead to adding Harvey Milk’s name to SFO?

DC:  I have introduced a Charter Amendment that would add Harvey Milk’s name to our airport to make it the “Harvey Milk San Francisco International Airport.”  Our SFO airport code would remain unchanged.  In San Francisco, a Charter Amendment must be passed by the Board of Supervisors (six votes) and then passed by voters (50% +1).

GP:  What’s the status of the legislation right now?

DC:  There are five cosponsors of the legislation, including myself. So, we need one more vote at the Board to pass the Charter Amendment and let voters decide. However, we will first hold public hearings on the legislation and get feedback from as many individuals as possible. If people want to show their support, we have launched a petition at www.change.org/harveymilk.

GP:  Have you had any push back?  Is there significant opposition forming?

DC:  Most people have been very supportive. We have nearly a dozen San Francisco elected leaders endorsing  the legislation, along with local, state and national organizations (the full list can be found at www.harveymilksfo.com) It is a very diverse coalition.  At the same time, there has been some high-profile pushback from the San Francisco Chronicle, really echoing the kind of negative statements that were made when Harvey Milk first decided to run for office as an openly-gay man almost 40 years ago. But Harvey Milk wasn’t afraid of adversity and that’s one reason he is such a fitting hero to honor with our airport name.

GP:  Why Harvey Milk and not some other civil rights hero?

DC:  Harvey Milk has been an inspiration to millions and is known around the world. He has been honored by President Obama, has his own day in California  and is  the California Hall of Fame. So many have come to San Francisco to free themselves because of what Harvey Milk did and the sacrifice he made. So it is really fitting and appropriate to put his name on our international gateway.

And this is something that many cities and regions do. There are 80 airports in the United States named after individuals. Each one expresses the values and identity of their region – for example, Norm Mineta in San Jose, Thurgood Marshall in Baltimore, and John Wayne in Orange County. Not a single airport, however, is named after an LGBT leader.

With the battle for marriage equality at a tipping point, this is the right moment – and San Francisco is the right place – to make this statement, and send out that beacon of hope that Harvey stood for across the country and around the world.

GP:  What do you hope having a Harvey Milk SFO would achieve?  What would it mean?

DC:  I would like every one of the 40 million passengers who fly through SFO every year to engage with the continuing legacy and civil rights struggle embodied in the life  of Harvey Milk. For those who are gay, and who may suffer discrimination and marginalization, it would be a beacon of hope.  For others, it would be an affirmation of all we have fought for and achieved. And I believe it would do exactly what President Obama did in his inauguration speech, where he connected the struggles in Selma with struggle at Stonewall – all part of our civil rights heritage that needs to be constantly honored, strengthened and defended.

GP:  What’s been the response to your legislation both within the city and beyond?

DC:  There has been vast interest in the legislation here in San Francisco, across the country and around the world. The initial news coverage was picked up by dozens of national and international news outlets because it means something to people everywhere.  Our petition at www.change.org/harveymilk got over 10,000 signatures the first week it was posted – a testament to how inspired people are by Harvey and this idea.

To show your support for Campos’ legislation, sign this Change.org petition.

Image:  HarveyMilkSFO.com

San Francisco airport may be renamed to honor Harvey Milk

Harvey-Milk_PhotoCredit_RexFeaturesSan Francisco International Airport could soon become Harvey Milk San Francisco International Airport, making it the first airport in the world to be named after a LGBT person.

David Campos, an openly gay member of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors, is sponsoring a charter amendment that would prompt the name change. The Associated Press reports that five of Campos’ colleagues must agree to add the proposed name change to the November ballot for voters to approve.

Campos believes the name change would provide an important learning opportunity for the millions of travelers who pass through the airport each year. “The idea that millions of people can learn about Harvey Milk and what he represented is very moving,” he told the AP.

According to the AP, 68 countries with flights in and out of SFO still punish homosexuality by law. Stuart Milk, Harvey’s nephew, emphasized the impact of the name change for many international LGBT travelers: “For young gay people in an illegal place looking up at a monitor and being able to point to this international airport named after an LGBT advocate, it gives them the green light to authenticity. It’s a major representation that (they) are being celebrated somewhere in the world in a high-level way.”

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors will vote on the amendment in the coming weeks.

David Campos has served as a member of the city’s Board of Supervisors since his election in 2008.

Photo: Rex Features

Meet America’s first openly gay political candidate

212_Jose_Sarria“There was nothing in the books that said a gay person could not run,” explains Jose Sarria of his groundbreaking run for political office in San Francisco 50 years ago.  The 89 year-old founder of the Imperial Court System said police harassment of homosexuals throughout the 1950s inspired him to borrow a suit and persuade city politicos to let him on the ballot in 1961.

Sarria received 5,600 votes–not enough for a spot on the Board of Supervisors–but secured his place in history as the first openly gay candidate to run for political office in U.S. history.  He went on to found several early LGBT rights organizations.

Today, openly gay former Supervisor Bevan Dufty is among a handful of leading candidates to become San Francsico’s next mayor.  NBC Bay Area puts Sarria’s campaign in historical context:

Sixteen years before Harvey Milk (was elected), Sarria had illuminated the power of the gay vote. Afterwards, candidates like Diane Feinstein would seek-out endorsements from gay organizations.

Bevan Dufty who is currently campaigning to be San Francisco’s first openly gay mayor, said Sarria did the heavy lifting during a difficult time.

“Here I am as a gay man running for mayor and I’ve received endorsements of every public safety union — the police officers’ association,” said Dufty. “It’s very different than when Jose was running in the sixties.”

Today more than 500 openly LGBT elected officials are serving in the U.S., including four in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Openly gay mayoral candidate features daughter in TV ad

Bevan Dufty, a candidate for mayor of San Francisco, is believed to be one of the first openly LGBT candidates in the U.S. to feature his child in a televised campaign ad.  The ad, titled “Someplace New,” is shot underground in the city’s transit system known as Muni.

“This ad speaks to the importance of Muni in Bevan’s daily life — and in the daily lives of most San Franciscans including Sidney, his daughter,” the Dufty campaign said.

Dufty, a former two-term member of the Board of Supervisors, could become San Francisco’s first openly LGBT mayor.

Nation’s first LGBT history museum opens

museumThere may not be a single “ground zero” for the LGBT civil rights movement in the United States, but the intersection of 18th and Castro Streets in San Francisco comes pretty close.  Now visitors to that famous neighborhood where Harvey Milk lived, worked and campaigned for public office will be able to learn about the movement’s history at the country’s first GLBT History Museum, which opens to the public today.

Local business owners helped raise money to establish the permanent museum.  ”Harvey would want us to do to so, because he would recognize how important it is for younger gays to be aware of the legacy of their struggle and the future,” said Steve Porter, general manager of Harvey’s, a nearby restaurant.

The museum is run by the GLBT Historical Society, which just marked its 25th anniversary.  View images of the new museum here.

Photo:  GLBT Historial Society