Gay Rights Activism: Harvey Milk

Task: How would receiving a message like this make you feel?

Harvey Milk’s electoral victory, in 1977, made him one of the first openly gay elected public officials in the United States.  Milk, surprisingly, wasn’t open about his sexuality and didn’t work in LGBT activism until he was around 40 but that didn’t affect his ability to have a tremendous impact on the United States. His determination to not only live his life, but also serve his community with authenticity symbolized freedom for millions of LGBT people around world.  Milk faced many physical and mental challenges on his quest for equality and his perseverance inspired millions of activists.

Task: Click here to read Harvey Milk’s biography. Condense this information into a short fact file on Harvey Milk’s life.

Proposition 6 was a proposed law that suggests to ban all gays and lesbians from teaching in any public schools. Furthermore, it also banned any public school employees who supported gay rights from teaching. Proposition 6 was introduced by State Senator John Briggs of Orange County. It was heavily promoted and supported by famous singer Anita Bryant.

Throughout the state, Harvey Milk campaigned against the proposed bill. Harvey Milk battened every event Briggs hosted. Milk challenged Briggs to a series of heated debates. In their numerous debates, State Senator John Briggs claims that “homosexual teachers wants to abuse and recruit children.” Along with statistics and evidence that proved this to be false, Milk responded back jokingly: “If it were true that children mimicked their teachers, you’d sure have ahelluva lot more nuns running around.”

Task: Answer the following questions.

  • Who would be affected if the proposition 6 bill was passed?
  • Explain how proposition 6 might affect someone’s human rights.
  • Give one argument offered by the supporters of proposition 6.
  • Give one argument offered by the opposition of proposition 6.
  • Evaluate the arguments and outline your opinion on proposition 6.

Task: Watch Milk’s speech.

Task: Harvey talks about the “us’s” in his speech. What “us’s” exist at our school?

Task: Why do you think it is important for you to know about Harvey Milk in your role as a student? a British citizen? a person living in the 21st Century?

Task: What affect has Harvey Milk had on LGBTQ rights, society or individuals?

Task: Why might someone believe that Harvey Milk is inspirational?

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