November 27th, 2008
Harvey Milk finally succeeded in becoming the first openly gay non-incumbent candidate to win a political office for two reasons. One, he refused to hide who he was; and two, he made it his mission to build alliances with groups that other gay activists thought were impossible to reach.
So to those who knew Harvey well, it came as no surprise that shortly after the 1977 election, Harvey was on good terms with Dan White, a conservative supervisor representing a blue-collar district in the city’s southeast. White, a former cop, was supported by the city’s police union whose leaders were angry over city policies which they considered to be soft on crime and homosexuals. There couldn’t have been two politicians from more opposite ends of the political spectrum. The local media ate it up as the two made joint appearances on local talk shows where they both talked warmly of each other. Harvey began to privately telling friends that he thought White was “educatable,” and that the two might actually be able to work together.
The warm feelings didn’t last long. During the election campaign, White had made a centerpiece of his campaign his opposition to a proposed psychiatric treatment center in his district. Neighbors worried that the center would put “arsonists, rapists and other criminals” in their neighborhood. Harvey was inclined to support White, which would have given White the 6-5 majority he needed to block the facility. But as Harvey learned more about the center, he discovered that San Francisco children would be sent instead far away to a state hospital where they would be cut off from their families. He concluded that “they’ve got to be next to somebody’s house,” and switched his vote.
The loss infuriated White, who blamed Harvey for the loss. For the next several months, White would not speak to him or his aides. Other supervisors noticed that White stopped spending as much time at his office in City Hall, and he was sullen during the weekly board meetings.
White retaliated by switching his vote on Harvey’s gay rights bill. Before the vote on the psychiatric center, White voted for the bill in committee and spoke passionately for it, tying it to his experiences as a paratrooper in Vietnam. But when the gay rights law came before the entire board a week after the vote on the psychiatric center, White changed his vote. The bill passed 10-1.
These two episodes were the start of a bitter public feud between White and Milk. White opposed every street closing or permit involving the gay community — he was often the only supervisor to do so. But as the year went on, White became increasingly disillusioned with politics. He also found that the $9,600 per year salary wasn’t enough to support his wife and infant child. He had opened a potato restaurant at Pier 39, but that business was struggling. Citing these pressures, White abruptly resigned on November 10, 1978.
This resignation gave Mayor George Moscone a tremendous opportunity to reshape the Board of Supervisors. The makeup of the eleven-member board was roughly split 6-5, and White was part of the majority who favored of conservative, business-friendly, pro-growth policies. With White’s resignation, the Mayor now had the opportunity to tilt the balance toward those who favored a more neighborhood oriented approach.
White’s supporters in the business community and police union were alarmed at his sudden resignation. They met with him to promised some financial support, and urged him to ask Moscone to reappoint him to his seat. Meanwhile, Milk and other progressive leaders lobbied Moscone to appoint someone more in line with their views. The fact that Milk vigorously opposed White’s reappointment was an open secret. Randy Shilts, writing in The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk, described an encounter between Charles Morris, a publisher of a local gay paper, and White at a political fundraiser. White appeared to be in a good mood, so Morris struck up a conversation with him. At one point, Morris suggested that “there are some in the gay community who think that you might be anti-gay.” White replied, “Let me tell you right now. I’ve got a real surprise for the gay community — a real surprise.”
Mayor Moscone set Monday, November 27 as the day he would announce whether he would reappoint White or name someone else. The night before, a reporter from KCBS called White to say that a source told her that he would not be reappointed. White refused to comment. He hung up the phone and stayed up all night, eating cupcakes and drinking Cokes. The following morning, his aide called to say that a group of his supporters planned on going to city hall to present Mayor Moscone with petitions and letters of support. Since his wife had already taken the car to go to work, Dan asked for a ride to city hall. He hung up the phone, got dressed, and loaded his .38 Smith & Wesson.
White’s aide dropped him off at City Hall. White paced around a bit, then found an open basement window. He jumped through the window, allowing him to avoid the metal detectors at the building’s entrances. He made his way to Moscone’s office, who agreed to meet with White in the outer office. White asked Moscone to re-appoint him to his former seat. Moscone declined, and their conversation turned into a heated argument. Moscone then suggested they move to a private lounge attached to the mayor’s office where they could speak privately. Once inside the small room, White pulled out his pistol and shot Moscone twice in the abdomen, then twice more in the head.
White then reloaded his gun and went down the hall to Harvey’s office. There, he asked to speak privately in an adjoining room. White later recalled that he began to scream at Harvey and that Harvey got up out of his seat. White then pulled his gun and shot Harvey three times in the chest, once in the back and two times in the head. White then fled City Hall, and eventually turned himself to his former co-workers at the police department.
Thirty years ago today, on November 27, 1978, tens of thousands of stunned mourners gathered in the Castro for an impromptu candlelight march to City Hall. The sea of candles stretched ten city blocks long. At the steps of city hall, Joan Baez led the crowd in singing “Amazing Grace” and the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus sang a hymn by Felix Mendelssohn.
In this original BTB Investigation, we unveil the tragic story of Kirk Murphy, a four-year-old boy who was treated for “cross-gender disturbance” in 1970 by a young grad student by the name of George Rekers. This story is a stark reminder that there are severe and damaging consequences when therapists try to ensure that boys will be boys.
When we first reported on three American anti-gay activists traveling to Kampala for a three-day conference, we had no idea that it would be the first report of a long string of events leading to a proposal to institute the death penalty for LGBT people. But that is exactly what happened. In this report, we review our collection of more than 500 posts to tell the story of one nation’s embrace of hatred toward gay people. This report will be updated continuously as events continue to unfold. Check here for the latest updates.
In 2005, the Southern Poverty Law Center wrote that “[Paul] Cameron’s ‘science’ echoes Nazi Germany.” What the SPLC didn”t know was Cameron doesn’t just “echo” Nazi Germany. He quoted extensively from one of the Final Solution’s architects. This puts his fascination with quarantines, mandatory tattoos, and extermination being a “plausible idea” in a whole new and deeply disturbing light.
On February 10, I attended an all-day “Love Won Out” ex-gay conference in Phoenix, put on by Focus on the Family and Exodus International. In this series of reports, I talk about what I learned there: the people who go to these conferences, the things that they hear, and what this all means for them, their families and for the rest of us.
Prologue: Why I Went To “Love Won Out”
Part 1: What’s Love Got To Do With It?
Part 2: Parents Struggle With “No Exceptions”
Part 3: A Whole New Dialect
Part 4: It Depends On How The Meaning of the Word "Change" Changes
Part 5: A Candid Explanation For "Change"
Using the same research methods employed by most anti-gay political pressure groups, we examine the statistics and the case studies that dispel many of the myths about heterosexuality. Download your copy today!
And don‘t miss our companion report, How To Write An Anti-Gay Tract In Fifteen Easy Steps.
Anti-gay activists often charge that gay men and women pose a threat to children. In this report, we explore the supposed connection between homosexuality and child sexual abuse, the conclusions reached by the most knowledgeable professionals in the field, and how anti-gay activists continue to ignore their findings. This has tremendous consequences, not just for gay men and women, but more importantly for the safety of all our children.
Anti-gay activists often cite the “Dutch Study” to claim that gay unions last only about 1½ years and that the these men have an average of eight additional partners per year outside of their steady relationship. In this report, we will take you step by step into the study to see whether the claims are true.
Tony Perkins’ Family Research Council submitted an Amicus Brief to the Maryland Court of Appeals as that court prepared to consider the issue of gay marriage. We examine just one small section of that brief to reveal the junk science and fraudulent claims of the Family “Research” Council.
The FBI’s annual Hate Crime Statistics aren’t as complete as they ought to be, and their report for 2004 was no exception. In fact, their most recent report has quite a few glaring holes. Holes big enough for Daniel Fetty to fall through.