Politics & Government

30 years on, California still fighting over Harvey Milk

Harvey Milk is a lightning rod in death — just as he was in life. Martyred hero or misplaced symbol, take your pick.

Nearly three decades after Milk and Mayor George Moscone were fatally shot by a fellow city lawmaker inside San Francisco City Hall, the gay activist's renown continues to grow:

-- A bronze bust of Milk was unveiled at San Francisco City Hall two months ago to honor the former county supervisor and first openly gay man elected to office in a major U.S. city.

-- Actor Sean Penn will star as Milk in a feature film about his political life and infamous death at the hands of Dan White.

-- Milk's memory was celebrated this year by San Francisco's gay pride parade, which named his nephew, Stuart Milk, as a grand marshal.

Pending legislation would declare an annual Harvey Milk Day in California, a day of "special significance" in which schools would be encouraged to commemorate his life.

Alice Kessler of Equality California, a gay-rights advocacy group, said Milk is a symbol of civil rights activism and a role model for all — particularly for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth who face intolerance themselves.

"We feel Harvey Milk is a great Californian and someone who made an indelible mark," she said.

Critics say the gay community is showcasing Milk as part of a larger campaign to win societal acceptance, legalize gay marriage and force schools to discuss alternative lifestyles.

"What significant contribution did Harvey Milk bring to the state of California — other than encouraging gay people to come out of the closet?" asked Benjamin Lopez of the Traditional Values Coalition. "This is yet another example of them trying to normalize and force acceptance of the gay lifestyle upon people."

Read the full story at sacbee.com.