A San Francisco lawmaker on Tuesday (Jan. 15) planned to introduce legislation asking voters to rename the city’s airport for slain gay rights leader Harvey Milk.
A charter amendment sponsored by Supervisor David Campos would put the question of creating Harvey Milk-San Francisco International Airport on San Francisco’s November 2013 ballot. If five of Campos’ colleagues agree to submit the proposed name change to voters and the amendment goes through in the fall, the city would become home to the world’s first airport honoring an openly gay person, said Milk’s nephew, Stuart Milk.
Milk, who runs an international gay rights foundation in his uncle’s memory, said that adding an airport to the list of public venues named for Harvey Milk would mark a milestone since flights to and from San Francisco International serve dozens of countries where homosexuality is illegal.
"When you think of the 9 million international visitors, coming from some of the 77 countries where it's still illegal to be LGBT – where it's criminal to be who you are," Stuart Milk said. "To be in Dubai, and see on the board a flight that ends at Harvey Milk San Francisco International Airport, or to be a young Pakistani, where it is illegal to be gay, look up at the monitor and see the name of a gay icon and feel, 'I am not alone' – it resonates back to my uncle and the calls he got from places like Altoona, Pa., when he was elected."
He added that the airport "is a global entry point to North America, and with this we are saying, 'We are including everyone.' ... It shows what a global community we have become and how we are teaching equality."
The Harvey Milk Foundation's Facebook page contains an image of "Harvey Milk International."
John O'Connor of Equality California, a statewide LGBT civil rights group, said, "Renaming the airport for Harvey Milk would be an international symbol of hope and freedom, and an enormous educational opportunity. People from around the world –including countries where being gay is still against the law – will learn about Milk's great legacy. This is a chance to lead the world and affect positive change on a global scale."
About 41 million passengers pass through San Francisco International every year, “and the idea that millions of people can learn about Harvey Milk and what he represented is very moving,” Campos said.
“That no airport in this country has been named for an openly LGBT person is something I hope would be remedied, and what a better place than San Francisco for something like that to happen than SF and what better person than Harvey Milk,” he said.
Campos said the San Francisco Board of Supervisors could vote on the amendment in as little as two weeks.
Milk became one of the first openly gay men elected to public office in the United States when he won a seat on the board of supervisors in 1977, inspiring a generation of activists with his uncompromising call for gays to come out.
He was assassinated at City Hall, along with Mayor George Moscone, more than a year later. His life became the subject of the 2008 Oscar-winning film “Milk.”
California observes Harvey Milk Day on May 22.