We're recruiting new authors! To find out how to apply, click here!
Site under maintenance. We apologize for any inconvenience.


Freedom Requires Wings FRW The #1 QUILTBAG opinion blog on the web. We aim to open minds and help the queer community. News, blogs, video, worldwide suicide prevention and more. Worldwide

Milk's early political career

Freedom Requires Wings | by on




A button from Milk's first campaign, Still sporting
his Hippy hairstyle.

Harvey Milk's interest in politics grew after he found himself experiencing policies he disliked; In 1973 a local government official came into Castro Camera and told Milk that he owed the state 100 dollars as a deposit against the Sales Tax. Harvey Milk was outraged at this, and proceeded to exchange shouts with the man. After weeks of complaining the fine was reduced to 30 dollars. But Harvey Milk's annoyance at current policies had arose.

Harvey Milk's welcome into the gay political establishment in the city was anything but friendly. Forming a rivalry with the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic club (A Political action committee founded by Activists Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon) early in his career after comments were made about his experience by Jim Foster, A gay rights activist who had been active for more than 10 years at that time. However some gay bar owners who were victims of police harassment, decided to endorse Harvey Milk after Alice failed to make any significant headway. When he first ran for supervisor he supported sound financial management, promoting individuals over large corporations, the reorganisation of supervisor elections from a city-wide ballot into individual district ballots; giving each district more say in the people who were going to represent them. He also supported the legalisation of Marijuana and opposed Government interference in private sexual matters. The Media picked up on his flamboyant speeches during the 1973 elections, earning him a large amount of coverage. He came 10th out of 32 candidates with 16900 votes.

In 1975, Harvey Milk decided to run for Assembly, However he decided to revise his image, he cut his hair, gave up smoking Marijuana, and chose to refrain from visiting gay bathhouses. He formed various coalitions with other union groups (Such as the Teamsters, which he did by convincing the gay bartenders to boycott Coors Beer). In the 1976 Election Harvey Milk came 7th, Which means he was 1 place away from gaining a seat on the supervisory board. Mayor George Moscone offered him a position as a city commissioner, where Harvey Milk was appointed to the board of Permit Appeals in 1976, Making him the first openly gay city commissioner in the United States; he stayed in this position for 5 weeks, before being fired by Mayor Moscone because he was planning to run a campaign. Milk used this to fuel his reputation as he took the appearance of a political underdog. He complained that the current gay political establishment (Particularly the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club) were against him.

Harvey Milk took whatever opportunity he could to promote himself, whether that was spending hours registering voters, or shaking hands at Movie Theatres and Bus Stops. He utilised the large numbers of volunteers he had as human billboards, holding “Milk for Assembly” signs to appeal to the commuters who drove that way into work. In the end the race for the Assembly was close, Milk lost by less than 4000 votes. But his opponent – Art Agnos, taught Harvey Milk a valuable lesson about his campaign speeches saying “You talk about how you're gonna throw the bums out, but how are you gonna fix things – other than beat me? You shouldn't leave your audience on a down”, Harvey Milk then realised that the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic club would never politically support him, So with Harry Britt, Dick Pabich, Jim Ravaldo and Chris Perry (Who became the clubs first president).

In 1976, voters in San Fransisco changed the system so that supervisor elections would be voted for in neighbourhoods rather than city wide elections. 17 candidates (One of which was Harvey Milk, Obviously.) entered the race for supervisor, Over half of the candidates were homosexual. However Harvey Milk's rivalry with the Alice B. Toklas Democratic Club rose again, this time backing another candidate; Rick Stokes, Who happened to be Milk's most successful opponent. Other than Gay rights, Milk campaigned for larger and less expensive child care facilities, free public transport and the development of a board of civilians to oversee the police. Milk used similar tactics to his campaign for Assembly: Human Billboards, Hand Shaking at every opportunity and dozens of speeches trying to inspire gay people to have hope.

Harvey Milk won by 30%, and his swearing in made national headlines, As the first non-incumbent openly gay man in the United States to win an election for public office.

< > F
Join us on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter