Harvey Milk’s civil rights legacy lives on, sailing the high seas

The United States Navy has chosen LGBT rights activist and former San Francisco Supervisor, Harvey Milk, for a ship in his honor in its new fleet of replenishment oil tankers. Other honorees include illustrious civil rights icons Sojourner Truth, Chief Justice Earl Warren, Robert F. Kennedy, suffragist Lucy Stone, and U. S. Rep. John Lewis.

Only two years ago, the United States Postal Service released a long-awaited and overdue postage stamp in honor of Harvey Milk, a pioneering legislator and advocate not only for the civil and human rights of LGBTQ people, but for all people, especially those who had been traditionally locked out of the legislative power structure that often attempted to control their lives.

Once in office, Harvey shepherded a comprehensive ordinance for LGBT rights through the Board of Supervisors and worked successfully to defeat the draconian Proposition 6 on the November 7, 1978, California ballot. The proposition was sponsored by John Briggs, a conservative state legislator from Orange County and, if passed, would have mandated the firing of all LGBT public school teachers as well as anyone who supported LGBT rights in the schools. Briggs alleged that gay teachers desired to abuse, molest, and “recruit” youth.

Just three weeks later, after serving only eleven months in office, Harvey Milk and his friend and political ally, George Moscone, the Mayor of San Francisco, were brutally murdered by Dan White, another supervisor who recently quit the board, but changed his mind and demanded to be reinstated.

The controversy that surrounded Harvey during his time in electoral politics did not end with his assassination. Following the announcement by the U.S. Postal Service in 2014, the ultra right-wing American Family Association (AFA) initiated a two-pronged boycott of the stamp. At the time, they wrote their supporters:

1. Refuse to accept the Harvey Milk stamp if offered by your local post office. Instead, ask for a stamp of the United States flag. 2. Refuse to accept mail at your home or business if it is postmarked with the Harvey Milk stamp. Simply write ‘Return to Sender’ on the envelope and tell your postman you won’t accept it.

AFA’s mission is “to inform, equip, and activate individuals to strengthen the moral foundations of American culture, and give aid to the church here and abroad in its task of fulfilling the Great Commission,” and to “restrain evil by exposing the works of darkness” by “championing Christian activism.”

AFA justified its action to stamp out Harvey:

The Harvey Milk stamp was a result of seven years of lobbying by a self-described drag queen (a biological [California] man with implanted breasts) and former transsexual prostitute Nicole Murray Ramirez of San Diego. Honoring predator Harvey Milk on a U.S. postage stamp is disturbing to say the least. Harvey Milk was a very disreputable man and used his charm and power to prey on young boys with emotional problems and drug addiction. He is the last person we should be featuring on a stamp.

In actuality, no amount of cis-supremacist rantings by the AFA will ever diminish Nicole Murray Ramirez’ integrity and groundbreaking lobbying efforts for the establishment of a postage stamp and California state holiday to honor civil rights pioneer, Cesar Chavez.

A crucial point in the psychology of stereotyping and scapegoating is the representation of minoritized groups as, in historian John Boswell’s words, “animals bent on the destruction of the children of the majority,” and dominant groups have long accused LGBT people of acting as dangerous predators of young people.

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