Harvey Milk could charm a banana out of a gorilla's hands. God Himself cocked his ear whenever he made a speech. And clearly, few politicians sacrificed more for their cause.
A lot of gay folks have been waiting for Harvey to come back in another form. But really, who'd have thought that the next Harvey Milk would be straight?
Just like a lot of African-Americans think of Barack Obama as the Next Great Leader after Martin Luther King, my guess is that if New York governor David Paterson keeps up the fight for New York gay marriage, a lot of gay folks are going to see him as Harvey Milk 2.0.
Sure, there have been others that have come close, notably Gavin Newsom, the mayor of San Francisco, and Bill Clinton. Yes, BILL CLINTON (click here to see why he'll be remembered as a gay civil rights pioneer).
Which reminds me -- why is it that the most iconic gay civil rights figures since Milk are straight? Can you imagine feminists trumpeting some male politician as the next Susan B. Anthony?
At any rate, David Paterson's role in introducing and leading the fight for the legalization of same sex marriage is nothing short of stunning. We're used to seeing prominent figures advocate vague and evasive concepts of gay equal rights (Obama and civil unions anybody?), but this is something else entirely.
The head of the second biggest state in the union isn't just giving lip service to gays (!) or straddling the fence with mealy-mouthed platitudes. If Harvey Milk were alive today he'd have footprints on his back -- from Paterson jumping over him, yelling, "Charge!" and leading the fight into enemy territory. The good Governor not only personally introduced a bill to legalize gay marriage; he's going to lead the campaign for passage.
He's risking his political life and he's doing it in the most inspiring way possible. Check out this passage of his historic speech:
"Anyone that has ever experienced degradation or intolerance would understand the solemn duty and how important it actually is. Anyone that's ever experienced anti-Semitism or racism, any New Yorker who is an immigrant, who has experienced discrimination, any woman who has faced harassment at work or suffered violence at home, any disabled person who has been mocked or marginalized, understands what we're talking about here.
We have all known the wrath of discrimination. We have all felt the pain and the insult of hatred. This is why we are all standing here today. We stand to tell the world that we want equality for everyone. We stand to tell the world that we want marriage equality in New York State."
He went on to say, "rights should not be stifled by fear" and that "silence should not be a response to injustice."
Is he channeling Milk or what?
Milk once said, "If a bullet should go through my head let that bullet go through every closet door." David Paterson could be the man to fire a missile at all those closet doors that tragic bullet missed.
For further reading:
How gay marriage strengthens straight marriage