Harvey Milk – California’s 1st openly gay, elected person – killed 40 years ago

Harvey Milk was the first LGBTQ elected public servant in California history. He spent less than a year in office, but left a legacy that helped change hearts and minds.

Milk, who was a San Francisco Supervisor, was a pioneer for equality and civil rights for the LGBTQ community and encouraged people to come out of the closet. He believed visibility of LGBTQ people was vital for the community’s survival.

Today is the 40th anniversary of Milk’s murder. Here’s a comprehensive story we posted last year on the assassination anniversary.

Harvey Milk

Harvey Milk, left, meets presidential candidate Jimmy Carter in this 1976 photo. Photo: Harvey Milk Foundation.

Gay Rights

One of Milk’s greatest legacies as supervisor was an ordinance that banned sexual orientation discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations. It was one of the nation’s strongest gay-rights measures. It was signed into law March 21, 1978.

Milk also was a strong advocate for affordable housing, public transportation, and daycare centers for working mothers.

Presidential Medal of Freedom

In 2009, Milk’s birthday, May 22, was officially recognized in California as Harvey Milk Day.

That same year, Milk also was honored with the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, by Barack Obama.

Phillip Zonkel can be reached at 562-294-5996 or at [email protected].


About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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