Justice  /  Annotation

Harvey Milk’s Gay Freedom Day Speech

Five months before his assassination in 1978, Harvey Milk called on the president of the United States to defend the rights of gay and lesbian Americans.

That’s What America Is”: Delivered by San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk, June 25, 1978 (Gay Freedom Day)

My name is Harvey Milk—and I want to recruit you. I want to recruit you for the fight to preserve your democracy from the John Briggs and the Anita Bryants who are trying to constitutionalize bigotry.

We are not going to allow that to happen. We are not going to sit back in silence as 300,000 of our gay sisters and brothers did in Nazi Germany. We are not going to allow our rights to be taken away and then march with bowed heads to the gas chambers. On this anniversary of Stonewall, I ask my gay sisters and brothers to make the commitment to fight. For themselves. For their freedom. For their country.

Here, in San Francisco, we recently held an election for a judgeship. An anti-gay smear campaign was waged against a presiding judge because she was supported by lesbians and gay men. Here, in so-called liberal San Francisco, an anti-gay smear campaign was waged by so-called liberals.

And here, in so-called liberal San Francisco, we have a columnist for the San Francisco Examiner, a columnist named Kevin Starr, who has printed a number of columns containing distortions and lies about gays. He’s getting away with it.

These anti-gay smear campaigns, these anti-gay columns, are laying the groundwork for the Briggs Initiative. We had better be prepared for it.

In the Examiner, Kevin Starr defames and libels gays. In the Chronicle, Charles McCabe warns us to be quiet, that talking about gay rights is counter-productive. To Mr. McCabe, I say that the day he stops talking about freedom is the day he no longer has it.

The blacks [sic] did not win their rights by sitting quietly in the back of the bus. They got off!!

Gay people, we will not win our rights by staying quietly in our closets…we are coming out! We are coming out to fight the lies, the myths, the distortions! We are coming out to tell the truth about gays!

For I’m tired of the conspiracy of silence. I’m tired of listening to the Anita Bryants twist the language and the meaning of the Bible to fit their own distorted outlook. But I’m even more tired of the silence from the religious leaders of this nation who know that she is playing fast and loose with the true meaning of the Bible. I’m tired of their silence more than of her biblical gymnastics!