US Postal Service to issue Harvey Milk stamp

(by Kurtis Alexander –
Thirty-five years after Harvey Milk made history as California’s first openly gay elected leader, he’s closing in on another historical first.
The U.S. Postal Service said Friday that the late San Francisco supervisor and civil rights leader will join the likes of John F. Kennedy, Rosa Parks and Jackie Robinson by being recognized with a commemorative stamp – an honor that had apparently never before gone to an openly gay politician.
It may not be Milk’s biggest victory, but it was an important one for his nephew Stuart Milk, who co-founded the nonprofit Harvey Milk Foundation, and a number of civil rights organizations who sought the recognition for years.
The Postal Service selects only about 20 subjects per year for a stamp from among thousands of proposals reviewed by a citizen advisory committee.
“We’re excited,” Milk said. “We think this will represent my uncle’s message, which is hope and courage and authenticity, very well.”
Harvey Milk was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977 and represented the Haight-Ashbury and upper Market Street neighborhoods, where the city’s gay population emerged as a force in politics.
While gay rights was always a priority for Milk, his agenda included a variety of issues, from affordable housing to public transportation to expanded child care.
On Nov. 27, 1978 – just 11 months into his supervisor term – he and San Francisco Mayor George Moscone were shot and killed by Dan White, another supervisor who became angry when, after leaving office, the mayor would not reappoint him.
Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, who knew Milk and shared many of his views, said Milk would have been “amused” by the recognition by the Postal Service, though he quipped that Milk’s political rivals wouldn’t approve of the stamp.
“I’m sure the right-wing homophobes will probably warn their kids not to lick it,” said Ammiano, who represents San Francisco in the Legislature.
Milk’s legacy has been increasingly celebrated. He posthumously received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, won a day of recognition on California’s official state calendar and was the subject of a major motion picture, “Milk,” starring Sean Penn.
This year, the legislation was introduced to the Board of Supervisors to rename San Francisco International Airport – or part of it – after Milk.
The design of Milk’s commemorative stamp has not been made public. Its release has not been scheduled, but is expected sometime next year.
While other gay people – such as artist Andy Warhol – have been recognized with stamps, the Harvey Milk Foundation said Milk will be the first elected gay leader to be honored.
Kurtis Alexander is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer.
Twitter: @kurtisalexander