Harvey Milk Day is commemorated every year on May 22, and it commemorates the life and legacy of gay rights activist Harvey Milk, who was also the first openly gay elected into office in the United States.
It is not a public holiday, however, it is a Day of Special Significance in California.
Who was Harvey Milk?
Milk was born in New York, on May 22, 1930. Hence why this was the chosen day to observe a day in his honor.
After graduating from college in New York in 1951, he held a few jobs, such as teaching, and was also part of the U.S Navy during the Korean War. In 1972, tired of New York, Harvey Milk moved to San Francisco in California, where he opened a camera store and became involved in a few gay rights groups. Working closely with the LGBT community, Milk became a leader in the gay rights movement, and his store became a hub for the community to get together.
The Castro District of San Francisco was the destination for many migrating gay and bisexual men, which Milk saw as an opportunity to run for political office in the area. After three unsuccessful runs, in 1977 he won a seat as a city supervisor on the San Francisco City-County Board. Harvey Milk then became the first openly gay elected official in the United States.
While in office, Milk was a fervent advocate for the rights of the gay community and was successful in passing a bill that banned discrimination in housing and employment on the basis of sexual orientation. He also defeated the Briggs Initiative, which wanted to ban gays from teaching in schools.
Dan White, a conservative city official, frequently clashed with Harvey Milk and his more liberal approaches to politics. White was troubled by the growing tolerance in the face of homosexuality and resigned from his position, citing issues with low salary.
He later asked the Mayor to reassign him to his previous position, but the Mayor declined, stating that the district needed someone more liberal in charge to represent its growing diversity.
On November 27, 1978, White entered City Hall through a basement window and went to confront the Mayor in his office, asking again for his job back. The mayor once again refused, and White shot him four times. He then walked towards his old office, where he intercepted Milk and told him to come inside with him, and the proceeded to shoot him five times, twice in the head. He then turned himself over to the police.
How it is observed
Harvey Milk Day is celebrated around the country by gay rights groups, and in California in public schools, where activities and events are organized in his memory and focused on equal rights.
Photos of Milk are displayed in his honor, as well as some of his most famous quotes such as "Hope is never silent.".