Harvey Milk was a man of wit and courage. Starting as a humble camera shop owner, Milk’s charisma and activism for the gay community earned him a seat at the table on San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors in 1977.
This accomplishment made him the first openly gay man to hold a seat in office in California, and the first openly gay person to be officially elected in the United States.
In November 1978, Milk and Mayor George Moscone were shot at San Francisco City Hall by former board member Dan White. White was upset that Moscone decided not to reappoint him on the Board of Supervisors, although White had just resigned from the position.
White also had some resentment that Milk lobbied against his reappointment.
Milk continues to have a significant influence and legacy on the nation’s LGBTQ+ rights movement and was even the subject of a 2008 movie starring Sean Penn about his life as the iconic official.
In honor of his birthday and contributions to equal rights, check out 22 quotes about inspiration and life from the late politician.
1. “If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door.”
2. “It takes no political deal to give people freedom. It takes no survey to remove repression.”
3. “All young people, regardless of sexual orientation or identity, deserve a safe and supportive environment in which to achieve their full potential.”
4. “I know that you cannot live on hope alone, but without it, life is not worth living...”
5. “All men are created equal. No matter how hard they try, they can never erase those words. That is what America is about.
6. “If I’m fighting for the rights of gay people, which I am, then I’m fighting for the rights of all people.”
7. “Unless you have dialogue; unless you open the walls of dialogue, you can never reach to change people’s opinion.”
8. “The fact is that more people have been slaughtered in the name of religion than for any other single reason. That, that my friends, that is true perversion!”
9. “All young people, regardless of sexual orientation or identity, deserve a safe and supportive environment in which to achieve their full potential.”
10. “I don’t think we have a right to take people who’ve raised us, made us strong and healthy, and then toss them away like an empty can of beer.”
11. “Rights are won only by those who make their voices heard.”
12. “All over the country, they’re reading about me, and the story doesn’t center on me being gay. It’s just about a gay person who is doing his job.”
13. “I have tasted freedom. I will not give up that which I have tasted.”
14. “San Francisco can start right now to become number one. We can set examples.”
15. “It’s not my victory; it’s yours and yours and yours.”
16. “I stand for all those who feel that the government no longer understands the individual and no longer respects individual rights.”
17. “You must come out. Come out to your parents. I know that it is hard and will hurt them, but think about how they will hurt you in the voting booth!”
18. “Burst down those closet doors once and for all.”
19. “I personally will never forget that people are more important than buildings.”
20. “If every gay person were to come out only to his or her own family, friends, neighbors, and fellow workers, within days, the entire state would discover that we are not the stereotypes generally assumed.”
21. “I’ll fight for you because I am you.”
22. “Some people call me the unofficial Mayor of Castro Street.”