Forty years after the death of Harvey Milk, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously approved naming a terminal at San Francisco International Airport in his honor on Tuesday. SFO’s director now has until Sept. 1 to submit a plan on the design and placement of artwork to memorialize the slain civil rights leader.
“This really is huge for our community to recognize Harvey’s sacrifice and people who are still sacrificing,” said Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, who co-sponsored the legislation, at the meeting. “It was a great achievement to get Harvey elected and then to lose him and then have to endure the AIDS epidemic — our freedom has not come cheaply.”
Milk was the first openly LGBT supervisor in city history, but was murdered — along with Mayor George Moscone — by his colleague Dan White in 1978.
Former Supervisor David Campos first suggested naming the entire airport after the gay rights activist, a controversial move which prompted both support and near-daily death threats.
With the help of an airport renaming committee, a compromise was struck: name Terminal 1 — which is undergoing a $2.4 billion renovation — after Harvey Milk instead. The $357,000 cost for new signs and other pieces of infrastructure are now incorporated into the renovation budget.
Supervisor Hillary Ronen added an amendment during an unconventionally emotional Budget and Finance Subcommittee in March — where the legislation she brought forward moved along after months of being stalled — to get further approval from the Arts Commission before moving forward. The Airport Commission in September unanimously opposed the naming, but Ronen was concerned that it would not properly memorialize Milk’s legacy for the many visitors.
Former supervisors Harry Britt and Tom Ammiano came to Tuesday’s meeting to say a few words about Milk and the impact of naming Terminal 1 after him.
“Even though it’s been a number of years, the healing has been slow,” Ammiano said to the board. “I can’t tell you the depth of what this means not only to the LGBT community and to its allies.”