San Diego, Calif. – California Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, will introduce a bill in the state legislature to make Harvey Milk's birthday a state holiday.
If the measure passes, May 22 would become a “nonfiscal” holiday, which means it should not cost the state any money.
Milk, born in 1930, settled in San Francisco's Castro district in 1972 and opened a camera store. He went on to pioneer a populist gay-rights movement in the city and, in 1977, was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, the equivalent of a city council.
Milk was the first openly gay elected official in any large U.S. city and only the third openly gay elected official in U.S. history – after Elaine Noble, who was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1975, and Kathy Kozachenko, who was elected to the Ann Arbor, Mich., City Council in 1974.
Milk and Mayor George Moscone were shot to death inside San Francisco City Hall on Nov. 27, 1978, by then recently resigned city Supervisor Dan White, who was angry that Moscone wouldn't let him un-resign and that Milk had lobbied Moscone not to reappoint White.
White's lenient sentence for the killings (seven years and eight months with parole) led to the famed White Night Riots in San Francisco on May 21, 1979.
White was convicted of voluntary manslaughter on the grounds of diminished capacity, which, his lawyer argued, resulted from depression exacerbated by eating too much junk food. This bizarre argument became known as the “Twinkie defense.”
In the White Night Riots, a large crowd of gay people gathered at City Hall the evening of White's sentencing and burned police cars, broke windows of cars and stores, and destroyed the overhead electric wires that power city buses. More than 160 people were hospitalized as a result of the mêlée.