Community celebrates Harvey Milk Day at breakfast
Keynote speakers address ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’
Published Thursday, 27-May-2010 in issue 1170
The local GLBT community celebrated GLBT civil rights leader Harvey Milk at a breakfast in his name at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront on Friday, May 21.
Harvey Milk was the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California. In 1977, he was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, a position he used to encourage GLBT people to come out of the closet and fight for GLBT rights. But after less than a year in office, San Francisco Supervisor Dan White shot and killed Milk, along with then San Francisco Mayor George Moscone. Last October, Gov. Schwarzenegger signed Sen. Mark Leno’s bill (after vetoing it a year earlier) making May 22 (Milk’s birthday), a state day of recognition.
“This morning we celebrate one of the key themes of Harvey Milk’s vision: the success that comes from building coalitions and focusing on unity of purpose,” said Robert Gleason, co-chair of the breakfast’s planning committee. “This breakfast, and everything about it – from the planning committee, to the program participants, to the sponsors, and through to the table captains and attendees – represents that fundamental value.”
Nearly a thousand people attended the second annual breakfast in honor of Milk’s birthday.
Harvey Milk’s nephew Stuart Milk, who has been speaking about his uncle and advocating for GLBT civil rights for the past 10 years, told the audience of primarily GLBT leaders, government officals and activists that his uncle’s message and work was being carried on by them.
“Harvey’s message, his work is definitely present here with all of you, a such tremendous, inclusive, group of leaders in San Diego,” said Stuart Milk. “Please note that what you’re doing here in coming together to celebrate Harvey’s message resonates throughout the world.”
City Commissioner Nicole Murray-Ramirez, co-organizer and founder of the breakfast, pondered what Harvey Milk would be doing today if he were alive.
“I know he would be speaking up loudly for lifting the ban against ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ … he would most definitely be speaking out against and boycotting the state of Arizona for their new immigration law … [and] he would have joined the picketing outside the Manchester Hyatt Hotel,” said Murray-Ramirez.
Christopher Ssenyonjo, a bishop from Uganda who has been speaking out against a law lawmakers have proposed in his country that would make homosexual activity cause for imprisonment and or the death penalty, said a major reason for the legislation being proposed is Christian fundamentalism, strict adherence to the Christian Bible.
“We have churches, businesses and organizations in Uganda that believe in diversity and democracy, but for the past 15 years, we have been silenced by the great heresy that is a plague upon our world, the heresy of fundamentalism,” Ssenyonjo said. “These misguided religious people, (my fellow Christians), believe they have a direct line to God and that God’s plan for the world and the LGBT community is not part of that plan. They believe this is a misguided lifestyle choice, and so they are now using the power and authority of the state to impose this opinion on all of us.”
The breakfast’s keynote speaker’s Army Col. Stewart Bornhoft and Navy Petty Officer Third Class Joseph Rocha spoke about Harvey Milk life and accomplishments in terms of the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
“Harvey Milk started us on the path to full equality and that road has led us to the very doorstep of success. Passage of a bill to repeal ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ – a struggle waged for 17 years – is at hand. And what it takes can be counted on one hand. But we need that hand, from you,” Bornhoft said.
“When we leave today let us not forget Harvey, who at 40 years old and after a distinguished military career was convinced, he hadn’t done enough,” Rocha said. “I challenge you to: Stay hungry for equality [and] stay hungry for justice. Thank you.”