January 16, 2013 at 11:07 am EDT | by Phil Reese
San Francisco mulls naming airport for Harvey Milk
Harvey Milk, San Francisco, gay news, Washington Blade

Harvey Milk in 1978. (Photo by Daniel Nicoletta via Wikimedia Commons)

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is considering a proposal to send to voters a ballot measure that would rename San Francisco International Airport (SFO) after slain LGBT trailblazer, Harvey Milk.

The proposal by gay supervisor David Campos, would make the busy international hub, which sees 40 million visitors annually, the first American airport named after an openly gay individual. Campos told the San Francisco Chronicle, Monday that he had four co-sponsors on the board for the proposal, including gay supervisor Scott Wiener, who represents Harvey Milk’s former district. To be sent before voters, only five supervisors would have to vote in the affirmative, making this a likely prospect for the November ballot.

“What a powerful statement flying into Harvey Milk would be,” Rick Jacobs, chair and founder of California-based Courage Campaign told the Blade on Tuesday. “And frankly, it’d be a great antidote to flying into Bush or Reagan.”

He continued, “I think it has a great shot at passage if it goes before the voters.”

According to Campos, similar airports that have implemented a name change of this sort, have spent $50,000 to $250,000 on the alterations, but the supervisor tells the Chronicle he hopes to attract private donations to offset the cost.

“There are already a number of things honoring Harvey Milk, including schools, but nothing of this national and international scale,” said Campos. “In places all over the world, including Europe and Asia, people of all walks of life look up to Harvey Milk.”

“That no airport in this country has been named for an openly LGBT person is something I hope would be remedied, and what a better place than San Francisco for something like that to happen, and what better person than Harvey Milk,” Campos told British LGBT outlet, Pink News.

Milk was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977, becoming California’s first openly gay elected official. He was an outspoken leader for gay rights in the 1970s. In 1978, Milk was assassinated in city hall, along with then-mayor George Moscone, by former Supervisor Dan White. Milk’s death captured the attention of the nation, and he became an icon for the movement to expand rights to LGBT people. Harvey Milk’s nephew, Stuart Milk, who leads the foundation named for his uncle, told the Blade on Tuesday that though he could not predict how the people of San Francisco would vote if this proposal makes it to the ballot, he was excited about the prospect.

“It is quite moving and powerful,” Stuart Milk said, remarking on flights from SFO that travel to 77 nations where homosexuality is still criminalized. “How often do we get to name — and thereby educate and send an enduring message — a public space that has 9 million international and nearly 40 million total people travel through it? And by traveling through it, people talk about the name, have it on their itineraries, boarding passes, in their e-mails and their daily conversations. This has a very profound meaning for international travelers who are either from or do business in nations that have not embraced equality. If nothing else it allows for reflection and conversation, at the most it educates and allows leaders to revisit their societal oppressions.”

Stuart Milk continued, “I can also see small, very meaningful acts taking place ‘Milk, yeah he was the activist killed fighting for equality, you know I have a cousin, I have niece, I have a co-worker who is gay, we rarely talk about it, I think I’m going to bring back this Harvey Milk International mug or keychain, let them know if a city can elevate and celebrate Harvey, I can do the same for them.'”


  • It seems that elected officials in San Diego and San Francisco have no priority in city business other then naming something after Harvey Milk. After a battleship, and stamps, now its SFO Airport. In the neighborhood where Harvey Milk was known as the "Mayor of Castro Street", they have honored Harvey with naming a school, a library, and a plaza. When california was considering naming a holiday to honor Harvey, I was hoping that they would share its name with Mayor George Moscone. The GLBT Communties seem to have forgotten that besides being assassinated with Harvey, Mayor Moscone first appointment to his administration in 1975, was to name Harvey Milk on the Board of Permits, becoming the first openly gay person appointed to a public office in California. Mayor Moscone helped give the Gay Rights Movement… movement by attending gay events and fund raisers at a time it was not yet politically correct to do so. I believe it would be proper to name the San Francisco International Airport after George Moscone, who was The Mayor of "all" San Francisco!

    • It would be a nice to see Moscone included too. He was a friend to all of San Francisco.

    • SF's enormous convention center is named after Moscone. The airport should be named after Milk. It's time.

    • We understand lots of people were friends with both men. But IMHO, it comes off as too patronizing of our singular LGBT American hero.

      Honoring one’s true heroes for THEIR singular leadership is important to a people and to their movement(s). In this instance, it also respects history.

      Harvey Milk led a civil rights movement into real political power. Moscone did not. That takes nothing away from George Moscone.

      The truth is, every civil rights hero had important political allies to assist them with their achievements– very much comparable to Moscone’s support of Harvey Milk– and Moscone’s own LGBT political base.

      Should we change everything named after Martin Luther King, Jr. to append Lyndon Johnson’s name to them, too? (After all, it was LBJ that rammed through Congress the 1964 Civil Right Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act.)

  • America wants Harvey Milk San Francisco International Airport.

    • Jim, I see what gay elected officials have been doing in San Diego and San Francisco. Naming battleships,and stamps and now the Airport. They know that they will get big donations for their next campaign. I knew both Harvey and George as friends… and was active in the gay rights movement for over 40 years. Mayor Moscone has not been rewarded for his contributions at a time no other Mayor or elected offical anywhere fought for our rights. He was active in so many ways… and believe me deserves being remembered from his time in the assemby then as Mayor. He also was a lifelong San Francisca, who replaced a conservative Mayor. When you say America want Harvey Milk … I believe your exagerating that fact.

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