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'Harvey Milk Terminal' at SFO Inches Closer to Reality - By Nuala Sawyer - July 25, 2017 - SF Weekly
SF Weekly

‘Harvey Milk Terminal’ at SFO Inches Closer to Reality

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In between figuring out how to handle cannabis’s legalization in five months, changing the city’s affordable housing guidelines and cleaning up cigarette butts on Ocean Beach, the city’s Board of Supervisors toys with other, less-life-altering pieces of legislation — such as naming an airport terminal after an LGBT activist. Sup. Hillary Ronen introduced the legislation to the Board of Supervisors Tuesday, reviving attempts made nearly four years ago that failed.

Showing support for the legislation, District 8 Sup. Jeff Sheehy announced that naming SFO’s Terminal One after Harvey Milk, would be his “top LGBT legislative priority.” The choice of priority is an interesting one for the supervisor, whose district includes the Castro. In the past, Sheehy has voiced his support in helping young queer youth experiencing homelessness, and getting the neighborhood and city to zero HIV infections. Naming SFO after Milk, however, has (hopefully only temporarily) seemed to trump his other LGBT causes.

That said, pushing forward the legislation would neatly close the door on the matter, which has been in the works since then-Supervisor David Campos first proposed the idea of renaming the entire airport in 2013. It was not well-received — 61 percent of people polled opposed it. The opposition was startling, both to Campos and his staff. 

“Our office was flooded with calls and emails from around the country, and I’ll tell you, in all my time working in local government, I don’t think that I have ever been as worried for the safety of an elected official like I was for David [Campos] during that time,” said Sup. Hillary Ronen, a former aide to Campos who now manages District 9. “David was receiving almost daily death threats and threats of violence. Every few minutes we would receive a call or email calling Harvey a pervert, a pedophile, and someone who deserved to be killed. And many of those calls were from people here in the Bay Area. It was a turning point for me. I saw clearly, for the first time, how far we have to go. How much hate and anger there still is in our community against LGBT people. And how much threats of violence are still an everyday concern for queer people.”

In response, Campos scaled back the proposal to just rename one terminal, before pushback from voters and City Hall led him to abandon the project altogether.

After being elected into the role Campos once held, Ronen prevailed, and four years later renaming the terminal is back on the table. This time, it’s different. The Airport Facilities Naming Advisory Committee (yes, that actually exists) voiced its support for moniker Harvey Milk Terminal One on June 27, and even approved renaming the road accessing the terminal to “Harvey Milk Way.” 

“What a powerful message it will send to the world that our city honors the achievements of LGBT people,” says Ronen as she introduced the legislation to the board. “How powerful it will be to tell the many youth who are still in the closet, that there is a place in America where you are equal, where you are wanted, where you have a future. That’s what the Harvey Milk Terminal will do… It will give kids hope.”

For Sup. Sheehy, the renaming is also something he feels a personal connection to. “As a kid in Texas, coming out was one of the hardest experiences of my life,” he says. “Harvey’s election and his voice for our community inspired me and many others to come to San Francisco. The fact that I sit in the same legislative seat as Harvey is awe-inspiring. Sadly, the fact that we only have one LGBT supervisor today means our community’s work for full inclusion is far from over.”