Before San Francisco and the Bay Area’s LGBTQ community mark the 40th anniversary of the assassination of S.F. Supervisor Harvey Milk, we have some parading to do.
The annual Pride Parade takes place on Sunday, June 24, with more than 100,000 people expected to march or view the festivities along Market Street.
It’s one of the happiest, most boisterous of San Francisco traditions, and has stood since 1972 as a testament to the social and legislative progress that lesbian, gay, transgender and queer Americans have made since Milk in 1977 became the state’s first openly gay elected official.
As our cover story reveals, Milk was motivated to tear down the walls of bias and hate that had always plagued the LGBTQ community. It was a goal he pursued as a gay activist both before and after his election to political office. Moreover, he was inspired by his strong Jewish roots, which played out in equal measures of Yiddishkeit and a desire to repair the world.
Milk was the pioneer, but like many others who dared to challenge the existing order, he paid the ultimate price, gunned down with Mayor George Moscone at City Hall in November 1978.
Today we name plazas after Harvey Milk and see his likeness on postage stamps. That’s all well and good. But as we march next week, let us remember that hard-won rights, such as legal same-sex marriage and anti-discrimination laws, are once again under assault.
Last week’s Supreme Court decision in favor of the Colorado anti-gay bakery that refused to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding, though narrowly decided, sent a chill through the LGBTQ community, as it may portend future court challenges to existing civil rights statutes.
The next day, the owner of a Tennessee hardware store promptly and smugly slapped “No gays allowed” on his front window, three years after he was forced to remove the sign.
An ongoing rollback of protections, coupled with an expansion of so-called “religious freedom” laws that allow legal discrimination on religious grounds, add up to a dangerous erosion of basic civil rights in this country.
This outrage should sound warning bells to Jews and other minorities. What can be given by the state can also be withdrawn. We’ve seen it too many times in our own history to allow it to occur again, to us or to anyone.
So yes, let’s celebrate at the Pride Parade. Let’s reflect on the vision and courage of Harvey Milk. But let us also quickly get back to work to prevent the further unraveling of the America we want and deserve.