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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

San Diego to have first Harvey Milk Street in nation

San Diego will be the first city in the country to have a street named after gay civil rights activist Harvey Milk after a unanimous City Council vote Tuesday.
The two-block road leading up to the San Diego LGBT Community Center in Hillcrest will be changed from Blaine Avenue to Harvey Milk Street in honor of the late San Francisco supervisor, the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California.
“This is a great day of pride for our community, our district and this city,” said Councilman Todd Gloria, who represents the Hillcrest area and is openly gay.
Councilwoman Lorie Zapf joined the unanimous vote, despite past comments critical of homosexuality. She once called it a sin and that gays should not be allowed to hold public office. She has apologized for what she said during her 2010 campaign.
Milk was the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California. In 1978, he was assassinated along with then-mayor George Moscone by Dan White, another San Francisco supervisor who had resigned but was seeking to get his job back.
There are plazas, centers and schools named after Milk, but it will be the first street in any city to be named after the gay San Francisco supervisor, according to U-T San Diego research and other reports.
Nicole Murray Ramirez, a San Diego city commissioner and gay rights activist who was friends with Milk, said Milk fell in love with California after being stationed in San Diego as a Navy diving instructor in 1954. He was a native New Yorker.
Ramirez and the LGBT Historic Task Force of San Diego County spearheaded the efforts to rename the street.
“Harvey Milk has become a global leader for those who wish for gay civil rights and equality,” Ramirez said. “It’s not just a street you’re naming. You’ll be giving a clear symbol to that young gay man or that young lesbian woman that they too can reach the highest offices.”
Not everyone was happy about the street renaming. Christian activist James Hartline was the only person to speak at the City Council meeting in opposition to the change. He described Milk as a degenerate who did not deserve a street named after him.
“If this is what you want to name a street after, I want you to know the voters are watching,” Hartline said.
Costs related to the street name changed will be paid for by private donors.
The City Council vote was conducted to make sure the street name signs can be changed in time for what would have been Milk’s 82nd birthday on May 22.