The Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club will honor WikiLeaks leaker gay Army Private First Class Bradley Manning at its annual gala dinner later this summer.
San Francisco’s progressive queer political group, named after the city’s first openly gay supervisor, announced it is honoring Manning with its In His Footsteps Award in an email blast to members today (Thursday, June 20).
The move comes amid the ongoing controversy over the San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee’s decision to rescind naming Manning, 25, a grand marshal at this year’s parade, which will take place Sunday, June 30.
As the Bay Area Reporter has been covering since the brouhaha began in late April, local supporters of Manning have held demonstrations, crowded a Pride board meeting, and packed a community forum last month to demand that Pride’s board reinstate him as a grand marshal. The Pride board ultimately voted to stand by its decision to not honor Manning, whose improper nomination and selection was blamed on a Pride staffer who was subsequently fired.
Both this year’s Dyke March and Trans March plan to honor Manning, whose fate now rests with a military judge overseeing his court-martial at Fort Meade, Maryland. And a large contingent of Manning supporters is expected to walk in the Pride parade.
“I believe that Bradley represents the highest aspirations of our movement and is a Queer hero,” Joey Cain, a former SF Pride board president and past grand marshal, wrote in an emailed invite sent today asking people to join the Manning contingent. “In the same way that Harry Hay or Harvey Milk are, I think he is a great role model for young LGBTQ kids and he represents the best of what being LGBTQ is all about.”
The Milk club’s decision to honor Manning came as no surprise. Its members and leadership have been vocal critics of Pride’s handling of the matter. One email from the club criticized SF Pride for its “disgraceful and libelous treatment of Bradley Manning and its disregard for the Grand Marshal selection process.”
The club’s “gayla” marking its 37th year will have a military theme to it, as the keynote speaker will be gay Lieutenant Dan Choi. The Army infantry officer and Arabic language specialist was discharged back in 2010 for publicly stating he was a homosexual, when the armed service’s ban against openly gay and lesbian service members was still in effect.
Choi, 32, was named a celebrity grand marshal of the SF Pride parade in 2009 and has been a vocal backer of Manning’s. He himself was put on trail for chaining himself to a White House fence during a 2010 protest of the military’s anti-gay policy.
In March of this year a federal judge found him guilty of a misdemeanor and fined him $100.
Others being honored this year by the Milk club include former San Francisco sheriff Mike Hennessey, who will receive the Harry Britt Lifetime Achievement Award; state Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) will be given the Community Ally Award; and transgender activist Felicia Flames will be given the Bayard Rustin Civil Rights Award.
Labor leader Allan Baird will be the first recipient of the inaugural Howard Wallace Labor Leadership Award. Wallace, the first openly gay Teamster truck driver and a force behind the long-standing Coors boycott, was a longtime Milk club member who died in November at the age of 76.
The Milk club’s dinner and awards presentation will take place from 7 to 10 p.m. Wednesday, July 24th at Roccapulco Supper Club, 3140 Mission Street. Tickets cost $80 for general admission; $40 for students and low income people.