Harvey Milk
Harvey Milk in 1978 at Mayor Moscone's Desk crop


May 22, 1930


November 27, 1978 (aged 48)



Notable for

City supervisor (1978)
LGBT rights icon

Harvey Milk was a San Francisco politician who became the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California upon his election to the Board of Supervisors. Born in 1930 in New York, Milk was not active in politics nor was he open about his sexuality until the 1960s, around the age of 40. He moved to San Francisco from New York City in 1972 during a migration of gay men to the Castro District. The neighborhood was growing in political and economic influence, which he took advantage of in order to promote his causes.

After three unsuccessful bids for public office, Milk won a seat on the Board of Supervisors in 1977. His election came as part of larger social changes the city was undergoing at the time, and he was aided by his increased popularity as a result of his theatrical campaign tactics in previous races. He served for nearly a year, during which time he was responsible for passing gay rights legislation for San Francisco.

On November 27, 1978, Milk and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated by former city supervisor Dan White. White had resigned from the Board of Supervisors a few weeks early but requested that Moscone withdrawn his resignation, which Milk lobbied against. The assassinations were announced by Board of Supervisors President Dianne Feinstein, leading to shock and outrage in the community.

Milk became an icon in San Francisco and a gay rights martyr, and he has been called the most significant openly LGBT public official ever elected in the United States. Tributes to Milk have lasted to this day, including the 2008 film Milk, starring Sean Penn in the title role. In 2009, Milk was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama, who in turn became the first President of the United States to openly support marriage equality.

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