A few days after the Harvey Milk postage stamp was unveiled in San Francisco's Harvey Milk Plaza, the City held a full-scale dedication ceremony in the Rotunda at San Francisco City Hall. It was the very building where Milk, the first non-incumbent openly gay man in the U.S. to win an election for public office, was assassinated in 1978.
The ceremony took place on the first landing of the rotunda's grand staircase. Dignitaries included Anne Kronenberg, who managed Milk's successful campaign for the City's Board of Supervisors. She was also joined by openly gay current Supervisors David Campos and Scott Wiener.
Wiener currently occupies Milk's former seat on the Board, which includes the primarily gay Castro District. Seated on the other side of the podium were Mayor Ed Lee, post office representative Stephanie Fernandez and Stuart Milk, Harvey Milk's nephew. High above them, atop the rotunda's grand staircase, was a ten-foot high rainbow flag. A giant blow-up of the Milk postage stamp hung behind it, right down the hall from Milk's former office.
"Look at the diversity here today," said Mayor Lee as he addressed the crowd. "To see a stamp — a Forever stamp — named after Supervisor Harvey Milk means that we are forever committed to equality.
Harvey said: "if a bullet should enter my brain then let it open every closet door. Let the stamp remind us of the fundamental truth of Harvey's message."
"Harvey changed my life with one phone call," Kronenberg said. "Because of that call, I dedicated my life to public service. Harvey Milk was the first to say: you have to come out! He knew that would begin to change the norms and standards in our culture."
Kronenberg works with Stuart Milk at the Harvey Milk Foundation, which seeks to spread Harvey Milk's message around the world. Both Kronenberg and Stuart Milk pointed to the recent passage of anti-gay laws around the world. It was important, they said, not to forget about LGBT peoople who didn't have safe havens to turn to.
"We survived Harvey's murder, Matt Shepard's murder, and AIDS," said Supervisor Wiener. "We can take a punch!"
The San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus stood on the Grand Staircase and performed the song San Francisco from the recently composed opera “I Am Harvey Milk.” The Chorus was formed in 1978 as the City organized a candle light march for Milk and Mayor George Moscone only a few hours after they were killed. The Chorus' first members did an impromptu performance in front of City Hall — it was just a group of friends expressing their grief for a beloved fallen leader. Thirty-five years later, they continue to perform.
Stuart Milk said that the sudden appearance of the Chorus on that night was humanity's most eloquent response to violence the world had ever seen.
The Rainbow flag at the top of the stairs dropped, revealing the stamp blow-up, which features a 1977 photo of Milk taken by his friend Dan Nicoletta. Nicoletta was present at the dedication.
As Harvey Milk smiled down upon the Grand Rotunda of City Hall, Kronenberg called for the stamp blow-up to remain on permanent display at City Hall.
The crowd cheered in agreement.
Not everyone though was pleased by the issuance of the Harvey Milk stamp. In an over-the-top statement posted on its website, the anti-gay American Family Association accused Milk of preying upon young boys, among other outrageous claims. AFA supporters are urged not to accept mail, which features the Milk stamp.