The Harvey Milk Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to former Salt Lake City mayor and representative Jackie Biskupski for breaking barriers as the first openly gay elected official in Utah and then as the first, and still only, lesbian to be elected as mayor of a capital city in this country.
The San Diego LGBT Community Center holds an annual Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast where people from across the country are recognized for their roles in furthering LGBTQ+ civil rights. Milk was the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California in 1977 as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. He became known as “The Mayor of Castro Street” and became a statewide figure in anti-gay campaigns, including a California initiative to fire openly gay teachers.
Event organizers said Biskupski’s greatest success was “building the record of discrimination in Utah’s legislation that would later be used to help win the Kitchen v. Herbert marriage equality case.”
They also honored her longstanding fight for human rights and advocacy for equality for over 20 years.
“It was quite an honor,” Biskupski said. “Past recipients included our very own, Kate Kendell.”
“To be honored in Harvey Milk’s name, a man whose life and leadership became the symbol of human rights and LGBTQ+ equality, created a moment of pause and reflection on the meaning of my work,” Biskupski said. “Breaking barriers, especially as a woman, someone that is still not equal under the Constitution of the United States, is, unfortunately, still remarkable today.”
“Back then, attorneys, like Laura Gray, Terry Kogan, and Doug Fadel, who worked with me for over a decade in the 2000s, had hoped the legislative record would help our cause one day,” she continued. “But I was surprised it happened so quickly with the help of attorney Peggy Tomsic in the 2014 Kitchen v. Herbert case. Pretty damn remarkable.”
Biskupski said that she and Milk led for the same reasons — because they knew they had to get involved, and had to fight for justice, liberty, and the lives of so many who were being cast aside by family and friends.
“We knew our community needed a voice, a seat at the table, and had the courage in us to rise to the challenge,” Biskupski said. “I am truly grateful for the role I played here and that it has been recognized at this level. My Harvey Milk award is a bust of Harvey and sits on my living room mantle with a bust of RBG. A reminder that someone always comes before you, and leads you to a path where you can blaze your own trail.”
The award was presented to Biskupski by California State Sen. Steve Padilla, who represents San Diego.
“What a privilege to present Jackie Biskupski with the Harvey Milk Lifetime Achievement Award,” Padilla tweeted. “It felt so good for our community to be together for the first time in four years and finally get the opportunity to acknowledge her achievements. America needs leaders like Mayor Biskupski now more than ever.”
Today, Biskupski continues her service as chair of the Global Leaders Scholarship Fund that she helped create with the Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy to enable Utah’s outstanding young leaders to participate in critical global conversations with peers from around the world.
She also serves on the Path to Positive Executive Committee for ecoAmerica, a national organization that builds leadership, public support, and political will to address climate change.
“I am also home raising our son, Archie, who is heading into 8th grade, helping our oldest transition into adulthood, hiking every day in these glorious mountains, and enjoying traveling the world with my lovely wife and kids,” she said.