San Francisco

Stuart Milk On LGBT Rights: 'We Still Have A Long Way To Go'

SAN FRANCISCO -- One day after the U.S. Supreme Court's historic ruling against the Defense of Marriage Act and California's same-sex marriage ban, leaders of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender rights movement gathered in San Francisco's Nourse Auditorium.

Though the date was serendipitous, the occasion had been planned for months. It was the world premiere of Andrew Lippa's "I Am Harvey Milk," a 60-minute musical tribute to the slain city supervisor performed for the first time by the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus.

The evening's attendees included Proposition 8 plaintiffs Kristin Perry and Sandra Stien, activist and San Francisco AIDS Foundation founder Cleve Jones, and Stuart Milk, nephew of the show's namesake.

Milk, who is also gay, founded the Harvey Milk Foundation, which fights legal and social inequalities around the world. Before the show, he discussed the week's historic Supreme Court rulings with The Huffington Post.

"I don't think anyone could be anything but excited," Milk said. "But we still have a battle. We still have a long way to go."

Though Wednesday's ruling was a historic step towards LGBT equality, many in the community have been quick to remind that the fight is far from over.

"When we celebrate this tremendous victory -- that we now have one-third of Americans living in a place where LGBT couples can get married -- we have to remember that we still have two-thirds of Americans living somewhere where they are not treated equally," he continued.

Oakland resident David Mundy, who married his husband Jeff in the small window of 2008 when gay marriage was legal in California, expressed the same concern.

"Of course we're delighted," Mundy told HuffPost. "But there's still work to be done. We're still not equal in the eyes of the United States. I look forward to the day when all marriages will be equal."

According to Milk, marriage equality is not enough.

"There's a misconception that we have now achieved everything but marriage equality, and that's just not the case. We still don't have societal equality," Milk said. "You can ask any African American, any Latino, if they were not treated equally somewhere along the line. Whenever you have a group that can be marginalized, you have to be vigilant in protecting those rights. Equality requires constant vigilance and it doesn't end with same-sex marriage.

"We can legalize all day long, but we need to change the conversation," Milk added. "For so long we've taught the message of tolerance. But tolerance is such a low bar. Who really wants to be tolerated? As I always say, we need to celebrate diversity, not just tolerate it."

Celebrating diversity is a lesson Milk learned at a young age.

"I was 12 when I first told my uncle that I felt different, that I felt that I didn't fit in," Milk recalled. "Harvey had told his friends that he thought I was gay, but he never brought it up to me. Instead he told me that the fact that I was different was a tremendous gift that I needed to share with the world. I will never forget that."

Milk was only 17 when his uncle was murdered, and he came out as gay immediately following the killing.

"You can't be an activist working on equality and still be in the closet," Milk said. "It just doesn't work that way. You have to be your authentic self. You have to come out."

At Thursday night's premiere, coming out was the theme of the evening.

Jones, a close friend and coworker of Milk, introduced the performance by recalling Milk's 1978 assassination.

"As I looked at Harvey's body while the police wrapped him up, I remember thinking, 'It's over,'" Jones recalled. "But I see now that it wasn't over. It was only the beginning. And so I say to you all what Harvey always said: Come out, come out, come out."

And as film clips from the Supreme Court rulings and the consequent celebrations flickered across a projection screen, the chorus sang the final lyrics of the closing number:

Come out. Come out. To your friends; to your parents; to your boss; to your neighbors; to your sons; to your daughters. Out to all your fellow workers; to your cops; to your doctors; to the shops where you spend money; to your God; to your teachers, to yourselves. Come out to yourselves.

See photos from the "I am Harvey Milk" world premiere in the slideshow below:

Before You Go

"I Am Harvey Milk"

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