Harvey Milk; America’s first real steps to Queer Rights

Harvey milk, an openly gay politician, led the gay movement in the 1970s

Discrimination against the gay community was common. Many people were fired from their jobs, had their business license revoked and could even be evicted from an apartment because of their sexual orientation 

Discrimination against the gay community was common. Many people were fired from their jobs, had their business license revoked and could even be evicted from an apartment because of their sexual orientation 

Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man elected into higher office, as a  San Francisco supervisor, in America, took some very large steps for the LGBTQ+ community. He made these changes in his time on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors for 11 months. 

The biographical film, MILK, tells the timeline of Harvey Milk, played by Sean Penn, as a political figure and his fight for queer rights. His biggest accomplishment was the passing of the Human Rights Ordinance in December of 1988. This ordinance protected the people in the San Fransico from types of discrimination and harassment in certain situations including; employment, public accommodations and housing

This form of discrimination was very common. Many people were fired from their jobs, had their business license revoked and could even be evicted from an apartment because of their sexual orientation.  

This form of discrimination was very common. Many people were fired from their jobs, had their business license revoked and could even be evicted from an apartment because of their sexual orientation.  ”

The ordinance was controversial at the time and created debate across the United States about the LGBTQ+ community and their role in this world. The film highlights the very obscure and explicit terms used by the opposing sides. Others opened their minds when this ordinance was proposed and saw gay people as human and treated them as such. 

The film outlined the hatred and bigotry Harvey Milk experienced in his career. After he announced he would run for office the first time in 1973, a letter was sent to his camera store in Castro, San Francisco, with cryptic and violent wording talking about physically harming Milk. Even more hatred came to him from opposing political figures throughout his campaign and time in office. One very prominent man involved in the hate towards Milk was senator Briggs Aide. 

Briggs spoke out against the gay movement that Milk was leading. He made explicit comments generalizing gay men. At one point, Milk challenged him to a public debate and shot down many of his points. The debate scene in the film demonstrates Milk’s resilience and commitment to the movement.

He led marches through the streets of San Francisco and created a statement to start all of his speeches, “Hello, I am Harvey Milk and I want to recruit you.” This statement shows up in the film many times, becoming a significant part of his campaign. His words inspired people all over the country  A boy named paul, played by Daniel Landroche,  called Harvey the night he won the election telling him about the hardships he was currently facing as an underaged queer boy. Harvey took the time to talk to him and help him through his hard time. Later that year the boy calls Milk again and tells him how far he had come since the last time they talked.  This powerful scene in the film showed the influence of Harvey’s words. 

The film only shows a snippet of Milk’s life leading to his assassination. He was killed on Nov. 27, 1978, after being shot by former San Francisco Board Supervisor, Dan White. White was given minimum sentence of seven years and eight months for both the murder of Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone. The verdict started the violent uprising known as “The White Night Riots”. This was the biggest riot in the history of the gay movement. 

The riots happened on May 21, 1979. The next day was Harvey Milk’s  49th birthday, which shows the significance of this date. 140 people were injured in these riots. The riots were a direct response to White’s sentencing and the hateful things said after his sentencing. Police openly supported White and supported him during the trial. The police even retaliated to the riots by raiding a gay bar in Harvey’s home, Castro, San Francisco. 

The movie ends with a very powerful scene after his death. It reenacts true events of the meaningful moments when 30,000 people walked down the streets of Castro, San Francisco with candles in hand, showing their respect for Harvey Milk and his impact on their life and the changes he made in this world. 

Harvey’s entire campaign was based around LGBTQ+ rights and fighting for equality. His actions, words and resilience helped many queer individuals living in the 1970s. He did this by creating a place for them where they have rights and can love freely. He created a safe space for people to be themselves in a society that was determined to dehumanize them.