Milk. The movie

Sue and I saw Milk last night. It’s everything you’ve heard about it. Stunning. Go see it.

One major political point. In 1978 it looked like Prop 6 (the Briggs Initiative) would pass in California. It was a viciously homophobic proposition backed by conservative churches and fronted by John Briggs, a reactionary Orange County politician.

The original No on 6 flyers and ads framed it as a civil rights issue only, with no mention of gays. Milk and others refused to go along with this, saying if the general populace realized they knew gays, even just one, that Prop 6 would fail.

A huge coalition of predominantly progressive grassroots activists, led by out gay San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk, teacher (later Supervisor of SF Board of Supervisors) Tom Ammiano, activist Hank Wilson, and many others, under the slogan “come out! come out! wherever you are!“, mobilized to defeat the Initiative.

Gay men and lesbians came out to their families and their neighbors and their co-workers, spoke in their churches and community centers, sent letters to their local editors, and otherwise revealed to the general population that gay people really were “everywhere” and included people they already knew and cared about.

The Briggs Initiative which had been expected to win by a huge margin ended up losing by a huge margin. Even Ronald Reagan eventually opposed it.

Yet the recent No on Prop 8 campaign made the same mistake that No on 6 almost made, framing it as a civil rights issue only and not mentioning gays and lesbians in the ads. Nor did No on Prop 8 organizers do the same kind of massive outreach and organizing that No on 6 did.

But they will next time, I’m guessing.