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Name SFO terminal for Milk

by BAR Editorial Board

Supervisor Harvey Milk. Photo: Dan Nicoletta
Supervisor Harvey Milk. Photo: Dan Nicoletta  

Next week, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors' Budget and Finance Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing March 22 on renaming Terminal 1 at San Francisco International Airport after slain gay supervisor Harvey Milk. The committee should approve the item and send it along to the full board for action. In addition to naming Terminal 1 after Milk, gay District 8 Supervisor Jeff Sheehy is seeking board approval to make the airport's address 1 Harvey Milk Way. SFO's Terminal 1 is in the midst of a $2.4 billion remodeling project that will be unveiled in stages through 2024. Milk's name will benefit the city, as it seeks to publicize the new terminal and updated airport. But more importantly, Milk is a global gay icon who rose to prominence in a city that's often referred to as the "gay mecca." It will be a powerful symbol of our values when travelers arrive in one of the airport's four terminals named after Milk, who was the first gay person elected to office in San Francisco and California when he won his seat on the Board of Supervisors just over 40 years ago. Tragically, his life was cut short just a year later, when disgruntled ex-supervisor Dan White assassinated Milk and then-mayor George Moscone.

The idea for giving Milk's name a presence at SFO came about in 2013, when gay former supervisor David Campos suddenly proposed naming the entire airport after him. That idea didn't fly, due to a lack of support (including from this newspaper). Instead, Campos and the late mayor Ed Lee compromised on naming one of the terminals in honor of Milk. Last year, when Sheehy was appointed by Lee to the board, he said that naming a terminal and the roadway for Milk was his "top LGBT legislative priority." About eight months ago, Supervisor Hillary Ronen picked up the proposal (she was a former aide to Campos) and after Lee selected the final members of the Airport Facilities Naming Advisory Committee, it unanimously recommended Terminal 1 and the access road be named after Milk.

Mayor Mark Farrell told us last month that he "fully supports" the renaming proposal "to honor Harvey Milk," just as he did when he was District 2 supervisor.

The one wrinkle in the plan seems to be that the San Francisco Airport Commission is not fully supportive - it should be. While we understand the panel would like to see various naming opportunities go to those with more direct ties to the airport, we would argue that Milk's unique position in the city's history justifies this honor. Milk's name graces a plaza, a school, a library branch, an arts center, a naval ship, and an education facility on Treasure Island. Terminal 1 will introduce Milk's legacy to the millions of passengers passing through the airport.

In this time of constant political attacks on the LGBT community coming from Washington, D.C. and conservative states, San Francisco has the chance to show the world that it values the contributions of its LGBT leaders. Milk was certainly that. He fought for equal rights and built coalitions with straight allies that continue today. Naming the terminal and the street after Milk would send a powerful signal to young (and older) LGBTs - that San Francisco welcomes you.


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