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.’”