Tag Archives: Harvey Milk

Altoona, Pennsylvania

20 Apr

Due to life, I haven’t written in quite some time. And I’m not sure when I’ll write again, but I noticed something tonight I wanted to let you know about.

I’m on the mailing list for the anti-gay hate group, the National Organization for Marriage, which I’ve written about several times. They’re known primarily for spreading lies about LGBT families and screwing up amicus briefs when marriage equality is discussed in our court system. They’re signature event is an anti-gay hate march they hold in Washington DC each year titled “The March for Marriage.” I’ve attended twice and taken photos to show just how few people are showing up for their hate marches. Both years, they’ve publicly inflated their numbers by 1000-2000%.

But today, I received an email from NOM stating:

“I just received a phone call from a lovely couple in Altoona, Pennsylvania, who have chartered a bus and gathered 30 of their friends to come to the March for Marriage next weekend! Isn’t that wonderful?”

It seems like your usual fib. A made up phone call trying to show that anyone from anywhere can bring people to this hate march – but there is something different about this one. Altoona, Pennsylvania. Altoona is a small city, with a population just under 50,000. Nothing to write home about. But to those of us who’ve studied the history of LGBT equality, or just to those of us who saw the movie, “MILK,” Altoona, Pennsylvania seems a touch familiar.

From the tape recording made by Harvey Milk, to be played in the event of his assassination:

“I ask for the movement to continue, for the movement to grow, because last week I got a phone call from Altoona, Pennsylvania, and my election gave somebody else, one more person, hope. And after all, that’s what this is all about. It’s not about personal gain, not about ego, not about power — it’s about giving those young people out there in the Altoona, Pennsylvanias, hope. You gotta give them hope.”

I’d never heard of Altoona, Pennsylvania before I saw a documentary about Harvey Milk. Is it coincidence that the young man who called Harvey Milk was from the same town that NOM got a mysterious call from as well? Or is NOM purposefully trying to troll LGBT equality organizers by throwing in a dog whistle from a very famous Harvey Milk quote? I’ve certainly got my suspicions.

Photo (c) Danny Nicoletta

Photo (c) Danny Nicoletta

 

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Our big gay wedding

21 May

On Saturday, May 18th I had the pleasure of marrying my best friend. In front of a hundred or so dear friends and family on a beach in Provincetown, MA., I did something I never ever imagined I’d be able to do legally in this country.

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Somebody’s getting married!

The ceremony, led by my my dear friend from high school, Shannon – was everything I’d hoped it would be. We started planning with the idea that we could subtly include some purpose – a few readings by LGBT writers, maybe a casual mention of marriage equality since that’s the work both of us do. Let’s just say subtlety has never been either of our best qualities.

Who could stay silent when you discover you’re getting married on the 43rd anniversary of the first gay marriage ever performed in the US? Or that you’re getting married on the 9th anniversary of the first state legalizing marriage equality – and you’re getting married in that state?! Casual mentions plus a reading of Harvey Milk’s “Hope” speech and a request of our guests that they throw fabulous parties when marriage equality becomes federal law made for quite the purpose-driven wedding ceremony.

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Our place cards – everyone had to find their photo!

On to the reception and we did something fun – instead of place cards, we found photos of nearly everyone in attendance. Since I’m a photographer and pictures are a big part of my life, it felt appropriate. People had to look for their photo to find out what table they were seated at.

Then came the tables. Each one was named after an LGBT hero or heroine and featured at the centerpiece, a large photo on one side and a brief bio on the other. It was important to us both that we recognize all those who’ve worked so hard before us to make what we were doing, possible.

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The “Sylvia Rivera” table, honoring the transgender activist and Stonewall veteran.

And of course, who doesn’t have a photo booth at their wedding nowadays? We just set up a simple backdrop and provided a trunk full of horrifically gay props including a rainbow umbrella, rainbow boas, mustaches, glasses, crowns and a blow-up rainbow unicorn.

And if all that wasn’t enough, moments after announcing on Facebook that I’d become engaged, my high school senior class president messaged me saying she wanted to make our cake. She’d started a small business making cakes and as you can see, she was incredible. Her company, Devilish Desserts, is clearly not one of those to avoid while planning a gay wedding!

Following dinner, we all went to the Wave Bar in downtown Provincetown where our very straight family and friends danced the night away with hundreds of lesbians and a few drag queens (it was single women’s weekend). We even met a lovely lesbian couple who got married the same day!

A huge thank you to all of you who helped with contributions to help make our big day possible!

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Taking advantage of our makeshift photobooth!

Overall, it was a marvelous day filled with tons of love and at the end of the day, Sean and I share a favorite memory – in the middle of the ceremony, Shannon asked everyone to be silent for a moment as they considered the vows we’d made and how they could support us in our new life together. And for a moment, after a week of hustle and bustle and frantically organizing the wedding, after driving 10 hours, dealing with family and everything in between, for one moment all you could hear was the gentle lapping of the waves over the sand. Simple, beautiful, and perfect.

A few people have asked us to publish our vows, so here they are. There may be a few insider references, but you get the idea…

Jamie’s vows:

Before our family and friends, and especially Eli, I take you Sean, to spend my days and nights with. To love you and to like you, to hold you tight when either of us need it and to give you the room you need to grow as we do so together. I promise to build our family in a way that honors our past and strengthens the future for those who come after us. I promise to continue to laugh with you, cry with you and continue posting photos of you an Eli sleeping on the internet. And this above all, as our lives blossom together and the winds take us in new directions, I promise to call any place you are, my home.

Sean’s vows:

I promise to be patient, to listen, and to remember that you’re usually right.
I promise to cheer you on when you’re doing great things and hold your hand through hard times.
I promise to make you laugh when you’d rather not, to make you slow down every now and then and live in the moment, and when I’m so very very mad at you to remember that we’re a team.
I promise to teach you how to drive if you’ll teach me how to swim, and to make you turn off Facebook sometimes.
I promise that no matter what comes next for us that we will face it together. Because without you I would be completely lost.
More than anything, I promise to love you. And when you’re old and wise and boring I’ll be right there too – maybe a little less wise, and I will love you still.

Our cake, designed by Devilish Desserts - the inside was rainbow layer cake!

Our cake, designed by Devilish Desserts – the inside was rainbow layer cake!

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Walking down the aisle with our moms

Our first dance - there was a technical malfunction, so the whole crowd sang "Rainbow Connection" a cappella and we danced.

Our first dance – there was a technical malfunction, so the whole crowd sang “Rainbow Connection” a cappella and we danced.

After many arguments over clothing, Sean surprised me by showing up in a kilt like mine.

After many arguments over clothing, Sean surprised me by showing up in a kilt like mine.

The head table was of course - the Harvey Milk table!

The head table was of course – the Harvey Milk table!

If a bullet should enter my brain…

27 Nov

By now, most of us have seen the Academy Award-wining film, Milk. While Milk presented a much-untold history, the true impact of this film is now being measured by the vast numbers of young people who found the courage to come out after seeing it, and in conversations about historic LGBT contributions around the globe.

It was on this day, 33 years ago, former Republican San Francisco City Supervisor Dan White took a gun to City Hall. He climbed through a lower-level window to avoid metal detectors and proceeded to Mayor George Moscone’s office. White had resigned his office and went into Moscone’s office hoping to be re-appointed to the seat he’d resigned from. When Moscone refused, White shot and killed him. With extra ammunition, he proceeded to the office of Harvey Milk, the first openly-gay man to be elected to a major city office. White proceeded to shoot Milk 5 times – the final two shots had White pressing his gun directly at Milk’s skull according to the medical examiner.

Harvey Milk had pre-recorded a message after receiving several anti-gay death threats during his political career. The message said “If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet shatter every closet door.” Dan White went on to be found guilty of voluntary manslaughter rather than first-degree murder. Despite White’s later statements that he was “on a mission” and  “wanted to kill four of them,” he was not found guilty of pre-meditating anything due to his poor diet.

White’s lawyers claimed that while usually a healthy man, White had been consuming many sugary foods, which led to his mental state. This became known as the “Twinkie Defense.” White went on to serve just 5 years of the very lenient 7 year sentence. 2 years later, White committed suicide by running a garden hose from the exhaust pipe to inside his car.

Following the guilty verdict, men and women rioted outside San Francisco City Hall. Hours after the riots had ended, Police made a retaliatory raid on the streets of the Castro District and the Elephant Walk Bar (now renamed ‘Harvey’s”). Two dozen arrests were made during that raid and the riots, and in the following weeks, after being called upon to apologize, gay leaders refused. The political leverage gained from these events led to the election of Mayor Dianne Feinstein. Feinstein then appointed a pro-gay chief of police who actively recruited gays into the city’s police force.

Dianne Feinstein, who is now a U.S. Senator, is leading the way for LGBT equality by sponsoring the “Respect for Marriage Act,” which would repeal the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

Happy Anniversary, Harvey! Let’s Make Him Proud.

7 Nov

November 8, 1977. On this day, 34 years ago, Harvey Milk became the first openly gay man to be elected to office in a major U.S. city. His assassin, Dan White was also elected that day.

While Harvey inspired many while he was alive, it wasn’t until the Academy Award-winning film was released a few years ago that he became a household name. Since then, dozens of openly-gay elected officials have followed in his footsteps. Organizations like the Victory Fund have helped to see LGBT leaders elected all over the country – from bluer states like Rhode Island to the reddest of states like Texas.

Harvey understood that by electing gay people to office, it would give young people hope. He understood that by seeing openly-gay people in positions of power and leadership would know that they could too, succeed.

Tomorrow, dozens of LGBT candidates will face voters. One of those candidates (though a longshot at unseating an incumbent) is Bevan Dufty, a San Francisco City Supervisor who is sitting in the very same seat that Milk served in 34 years ago. Victory Fund highlights “10 Races to Watch” for those interested in seeing more LGBT candidates make history.

Not to pick any one of these out as I’m sure they are all wonderful candidates, but openly-gay 22 year-old and Point Foundation scholar Alex Morse is running for Mayor of Holyoke, Massachusetts. As a Mass. native, I’m especially proud to see this going on. Daniel Hernandez Jr. – the young gay man who saved the life of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is also running for office in his local school district.

Please check out Victory Fund’s full list of “10 Races to Watch”:

Zach Adamson, Indianapolis City Council – Adamson could become Indianapolis’ first openly LGBT city council member.  Learn more here.

Caitlin Copple, Missoula, Montana City Council – Missoula has become a focal point of the Montana debate over LGBT non-discrimination laws.  Copple’s election would add an authentic voice from the LGBT community to this discussion and many others concerning her community.  Learn more here.

Bevan Dufty, San Francisco Mayor – A former San Francisco Supervisor who represented the same district as Harvey Milk for 8 years, Dufty is prepared to continue Milk’s legacy and serve as the top elected official in the city.  A victory in this race would make him San Francisco’s first openly LGBT mayor.  Learn more here.

Patrick Forrest, Virginia State Senate – If he wins, Patrick would become the only openly LGBT Republican state legislator in America, and one of the first openly LGBT members of the Virginia Senate.  Learn more here.

Daniel Hernandez, Jr., Sunnyside Unified School District Board of Governors, Tucson, Ariz. – When his boss, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, was shot along with numerous others at a district event in Tucson, Hernandez sprang into action and is credited with helping to save Giffords’ life.  The world marveled at his quick thinking and leadership qualities on display that day, and many have urged him to consider a career in public service.  Learn more here.

LaWana Mayfield, Charlotte, N.C., City Council – Mayfield’s primary victory made national news because Charlotte has never elected an openly LGBT city council member.  She’ll finish the job and join the council if she wins her general election.  Learn more here.

Pam Miller, Savannah, Ga., City Council – Miller could become the first openly LGBT candidate in Georgia to win outside the Atlanta metro area.  Learn more here.

Alex Morse, Mayor, Holyoke, Mass. – At just 22, Morse already has a public service record to rival candidates twice his age.  In the primary he bested the incumbent mayor by a single vote.  He could make history this November as the city’s youngest and first openly LGBT mayor.  Learn more here.

Rory Neuner, Lansing, Mich., City Council – Neuner has already worked to make Lansing a better city, and her door-to-door campaign for city council could make her the only openly LGBT city council member.  Learn morehere.

Chris Seelbach, Cincinnati, Ohio, City Council – Seelbach has already been instrumental in making Cincinnati a more welcoming place for all families.   Now he could become its first openly LGBT city council member.

If voting is taking place in your state, town or district, please make sure you vote. Staying home is not an option. Obviously support the candidate who best speaks to you and your family’s needs, but above all, do not stay home. Our futures depend on it.

Openly Gay Man Elected to Public Office

8 Nov

Photo (c) Danny Nicoletta

On this day 33 years ago, after several unsuccessful attempts, the first gay person in US history was elected to a public office.

On November 8th, 1977, Harvey Milk was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Most of us have heard about Harvey and many of us saw the incredible Academy Award-Winning Film from 2008. And many of us had no idea who he was before that film, but now we know a little more. Harvey’s murderer Dan White, was also elected to office that same day.

20 years to the day after Harvey won his office, Bill Clinton became the first sitting US President to address the Gay & Lesbian Community directly in a fundraising speech.

We spend so much time getting frustrated over how far we have to go, but we ask that you take a look at where we’ve been and how quickly we have moved forward. We have come this far because those before us have talked about who they are. Harvey Milk spoke clearly about who he was and the fact that we had to come out to create change. That truth remains. 33 years later. Talk About Equality.