The San Francisco Board of Supervisors has voted to rename SFO Terminal 1 in Harvey Milk’s name.
Milk was the first openly gay elected official to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors until his assassination by then Supervisor Dan White in 1978.
“He was more than just an LGBTQ activist — he was an activist for everyone’s equality,” said Samantha Taylor, a junior at SF State. “So I think having an airport terminal renamed after him is awesome because more people will know who he is and his accomplishments after that.”
In addition to studying psychology at SF State, Taylor also works part-time at the Human Rights Campaign Store in the Castro. A building that was formerly Castro Camera a small independent camera store owned and operated by Milk.
Castro Camera became the center of the growing gay community in San Francisco during the 1970s — a time in which Milk became a champion of the gay rights agenda by demanding equal representation in office.
“We [the gay community] must be judged by our leaders those who are themselves gay,” Milk said during his famous “Hope Speech” at the 1978 San Francisco Gay Freedom Parade. “A gay person in office can set a tone and command respect not only from the larger community, but from the young people who need both examples and hope.”
That same year, Milk successfully campaigned against the passing of the Briggs Initiative, which sought to prevent gay or lesbian teachers from teaching in California public schools. The proposition lost with almost four million votes against it.
Milk had also passed a gay rights law that prevented discrimination in housing and employment based on sexual orientation and pushed for the city of San Francisco to hire more gay and lesbian police officers.
“Harvey Milk and his legacy are an integral part of San Francisco and its LGBTQ community. I am a glad he is receiving even more recognition after his death,” said Allie Peterson, a junior at SF State studying creative writing.
Milk has posthumously received the Presidential Medal of Freedom award, a day of recognition in California, multiple documentaries and four public schools named after him.
“There’s a lot of tributes to him especially in the Castro,” said Taylor. “In our Human Rights Campaign Store there are multiple murals of him inside and outside the store, including our very own merchandise.”
The renaming comes during the $2.4 billion redevelopment of Terminal 1, which aims to improve its outdated design and construction in order to better accommodate the millions of travellers that arrive each year.
The rebranding has been a five-year process, first starting in 2013 when then Supervisor David Campos tried to rename the entire airport after Milk. Campos’ plan, however, received waves of unexpected backlash.
“I didn’t fully understand the politics behind naming an airport,” Campos said to the voting committee. “I didn’t realize that many of the people Milk challenged are still around.”
Supervisor Hillary Ronen, a former aide to Campos, said to Curbed that Campos received daily death threats after the renaming initiative back in 2013.
“We’re still fighting for LGBTQ rights today,” said Taylor. “So recognizing Harvey Milk is important because he definitely made a huge impact on how gays and lesbians are accepted today.”
The Budget Committee has reported that changing the signs in the terminal will cost $357,000 and will need a full vote from the Board of Supervisors come April.
Interim Mayor Mark Farrell has voiced his support for the change and said that he will sign the law if it passes.