Thirty years ago today on May 21, 1979 a court in San Francisco handed down the most lenient sentence possible to Dan White. White had taken the lives of the Mayor of San Francisco and of Harvey Milk, a member of the San Francisco city supervisors and a champion of social justice for LGBT people. The grotesque injustice in the trial and sentencing of White was yet another slap in the face of LGBT people. It was a reminder, as if one were needed, that “you don’t count,” “you don’t matter,” “you are second class citizens.”
When you repeatedly abuse any minority within a society, there comes a point where you reach “critical mass.” A point where people simply refuse to take the abuse any longer, Stonewall was such a point and so was May 21, 1979. Harvey Milk himself left a recorded message in case he was assassinated. I think it appropriate for us to consider his words, as we pause and recall the events of May 21, 1979.
The aftermath of the assassination produced the following events, recorded here on video:
As we wait yet another court decision, which will determine our immediate fate under the law. It is good to pause and reflect on the long road we have already traveled. It is good to realize that we walk in the footsteps of others who have paid the ultimate price for the gains in our civil rights and human dignity, which we have been able to realize. It is important for us to work for the day when every person in our state and in our nation will enjoy full equality under the law.
How do we get there from here? Many legal experts expect that the court will rule to uphold Prop 8. If that turns out to be the case,there will be a great up swell of emotions when the court’s decision is announced, most probably next week. While these emotions are justified and understandable, we need to direct them in a positive and constructive manner. Yes, we need to express our indignation and outrage at injustice and the continuation of discrimination enshrined in our legal system. How we do this is critical. Many LGBT organizations are collaborating with law enforcement officials to conduct legal and peaceful protests.
We need to look down the road to November 2010. Many groups within our state are working to place an initiative on the ballot to repeal Prop 8. One such group is Love, Honor and Cherish [lovehonorcherish.org]. We need to reach out to our co-workers, neighbors, people we speak with every day and raise the subject of marriage equality. We need to engage these people in conversations that will move their minds and hearts on this issue. Each of us needs to speak from the heart. Each of us needs to convey what it means to suffer discrimination. Each of us needs to come out, not merely about our orientation but to share what this has cost us personally.
Harvey Milk once said that if every LGBT person came out, discrimination would end. The greatest protest you can make is to “be” by making yourself and your story known.
- Boycott the Knights of Columbus
- A wedding sermon.
- An open letter to my parish community.
- Why was a college student in the car of drunken Archbishop-elect Cordileone at 12:26 AM, when Cordileone was arrested for a DUI?
- When the Church married Same-Sex couples.
- How It All began
- The Supreme Court’s Decisions and the New Mason-Dixon Line
- What the Vatican & American bishops DO NOT want you (and Politicians) to know.
- The Morality of Sex, gay & straight.
- San Francisco in archbishop Cordileone’s sight