San Diego has been the starting point for many Harvey Milk honors, most of them historic firsts.
As the country celebrates Harvey Milk Day today, the San Diego LGBT community can be proud to live in a city where he is celebrated and remembered, perhaps more than other place on the map.
Harvey Milk was a politician who became the very first openly gay man to be elected to a high-powered public position in California. He served on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors beginning in 1977. Sadly, he was assassinated in 1978.
A quiet man, Milk was more than a politician, he was an activist at heart and inspired many people to embrace who they are and come out. "Burst down those closet doors once and for all, and stand up and start to fight,” he once said.
And that is what people did.
Milk wasted no time in making change, he immediately sponsored a civil rights bill that made it illegal to discriminate people based on their sexual orientation. The passing of this law was considered the beginning of America's LGBT community realizing how much political power they have.
Figuratively speaking, San Francisco is considered Milk’s hometown, however, he also lived in San Diego for a time while he served in the Navy.
San Diego is also the first place in America to devote an entire street to Harvey Milk. In May 2012 the City Council unanimously voted to dedicate a two-block span leading up to the San Diego LGBT Center as Harvey Milk Street.
Local LGBT activist and City Commissioner Nicole Murray-Ramirez has made it his mission to honor Milk in every possible way, and it spans much farther than his zip code.
“We have so much to be proud of in San Diego,” Murray-Ramirez told SDGLN in 2016. “We got the park bench in his [Milk's] honor, the street – first in the nation, The Harvey Milk Breakfast is the biggest Milk hotel event in the country. I launched the stamp campaign here and also the ship campaign here.”
The Harvey Milk Breakfast just ended its tenth year. It brought together the LGBT community and their allies in appreciation of their inclusive contributions.
In 2014, International Court System and chairperson Murray-Ramirez launched a campaign for the nation’s first postage stamp in honor of an LGBT activist. It was a successful endeavor and over 30 million first-class Harvey Milk stamps were printed.
Then in July 2016, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus confirmed that a Military Sealift Command fleet oiler named the USNS Harvey Milk (T-AO-206) would be constructed and launched in San Diego.
These are just some of the ways America's Finest City honors the memory of Harvey Milk. As a gay man from Northern California, I am proud to be a part of a city, a community which continues to remember his legacy, especially as newer generations tend to forget their LGBT roots.
It is important to not only remember those who came before us, but do everything we can to make sure that memory is indelible in our kids. Not only does that remind them that they too can make a difference, but there are some people no longer with us who paved the way for their freedoms.
"It's not my victory, it's yours and yours and yours. If a gay can win, it means there is hope that the system can work for all minorities if we fight. We've given them hope.” ― Harvey Milk