It’s been 33 years since Harvey Milk was assassinated.
The first openly gay man elected to public office in California, Milk went on to push through a strong gay rights ordinance and successfully campaigned against the infamous Briggs Initiative, which would have made firing homosexual teachers, and those who support them, mandatory.
The world is a better place because Harvey Milk was in it. He campaigned tirelessly for our right to simply exist in a world that was full of incredible hostility, receiving increasingly violent death threats. He put up with a lot, and fought incredibly hard.
I wasn’t around during that time; Milk was killed six years before I was born, and it would be a further two before we would be legalised here. I don’t remember the Briggs Initiative, or Milk’s campaign. I don’t remember our own Homosexual Law Reform and the Salvation Army’s campaign of hate. I don’t even remember John Banks standing up in the house telling us why he was opposing all human rights because it would mean that the gays would get some too — I had just turned 9 when he did that.
All I have to go off is the film Milk, and the documentary The Times of Harvey Milk, upon which the former is based. But they are powerful films, and bring me to tears every time I watch them. Because a lot of what they fought against is still real. I do remember Proposition 8, and I do remember Destiny’s marching, fists in the air, upon parliament to oppose civil unions.
Milk was right: “You’ve got to elect gay people.” Labour and Greens are doing this well, but a look at National and their coalition shows them to be conspicuously absent.