Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 11 / 15 March 2018

Pelosi Harvey Milk Day statement inaccurate

Last year it was California Governor Jerry Brown who erred with his facts when proclaiming today, May 22, Harvey Milk Day.

This year it is House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), whose official Milk day statement contains the same erroneous claim that Brown made in 2011.

In his proclamation declaring May 22 a day of special significance last spring, Brown’s statement had said that “In 1977, Harvey Milk was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, becoming the first openly gay man in the history of the United States to be elected to public office.”

In her videotaped statement released this morning, Pelosi says, “Harvey Milk was special in many respects, including that he was first: the first openly gay man elected to public office in the United States.”

In fact the country’s first openly gay man to win elective office was Minnesota State Senator Alan Spear. Having first won election in 1972, Spear came out in a newspaper interview in 1974.

Spear easily won re-election in 1976, a full year prior to Milk’s historic win in San Francisco, making him the first out person in the city and the state of California to be elected to public office.

After the Bay Area Reporter pointed out the mistake to Pelosi’s office, her spokesman Drew Hammill responded in an email that, “We are aware. Milk was first non-incumbent openly gay man elected. That was too wordy.”

Brown did get his facts correct this year. Perhaps it is no coincidence that  his proclamation decreeing today Milk Day starts right off by clarifying last year’s mistake.

“As one of the first openly gay politicians to hold office in the United States, San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk is remembered as a hero in the movement for acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people,” starts off the proclamation. “His courage in facing a hostile public and his insistence on being treated the same as anyone else contributed greatly to the advancement of this cause. Milk succeeded because he was not just a gay leader but a champion for his district, a brilliant coalition builder and community organizer who brought the real concerns of ordinary people to city hall.”

Pelosi, who was honored Monday for her 25 years of serving in Congress with having a street in Golden Gate Park named after her, posted her video message about Milk day to Youtube and it can be seen here.

Despite flubbing Milk’s place in LGBT electoral history in her taped message, Pelosi reiterates the need for lawmakers to ban workplace discrimination against LGBT employees and repeal the federal ban against same-sex marriage known as the Defense of Marriage Act.

“Many of us share the beautiful memory of when Harvey Milk was sworn-in as Supervisor and said his victory signaled ‘a green light to all who feel disenfranchised, a green light to move forward…and that the doors are opened to everyone.’ Harvey’s public service ushered in a new era compassion, justice and opportunity – as he said, for everyone,” Pelosi says in the video. “His legacy lives on today – through the efforts of his nephew, Stuart Milk, at the Harvey Milk Foundation, and through the campaigns of activists and advocates in California and across the country.”


— Matthew S. Bajko, May 22, 2012 @ 1:06 pm PST
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