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SF poised to rename part of SFO after Harvey Milk

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Plan delayed for years, provoked death threats

The exterior of SFO International Airport at night. Kenishirotie

At Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Supervisor Hillary Ronen introduced legislation to rename a terminal at the San Francisco International Airport after Supervisor Harvey Milk, the city’s first openly gay public office holder, who was murdered inside his City Hall office in 1978.

The idea dates back to 2013, the brainchild of district nine’s previous supervisor David Campos, for whom Ronen was an aid at the time.

“He came up with what he thought was a non-controversial idea to name all of SFO after Harvey Milk,” Ronen said at Tuesday’s meeting. “Us aides thought it would sail through with little fanfare. That didn’t quite work out.”

Ronen says that when news broke, people around the country deluged Campos’s office with messages, many of them including death threats or defamatory comments about Milk.

Ronen added that renaming the terminal would send a message to LGBTQ people (particularly youths still in the closet) that “there is a place in America where you have a future.”

The bust of Milk at City Hall.
Son of Groucho

District Eight Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, whose district include Milk’s old neighborhood of the Castro, seconded the proposal, citing violence against LGBTQ people around the world as increasing the necessity of a loud public statement on gay rights.

“Progress requires sacrifice,” Sheehy said, adding that further enshrining the name of the murdered Milk would ensure that “people coming to our city would be reminded of some of our sacrifices.”.

A public plaza next to the Castro Street Muni station already bears Milk’s name (although it needs some TLC these days), as does a Navy ship dedicated last year in a Treasure Island ceremony and a variety of other institutions.

In January of 2013, Campos said that the airport’s “national and international scale” would make the naming particularly significant.

Mayor Ed Lee was among those who didn’t back the suggestion to rechristen the entire airport. He worked out a compromise of renaming just one terminal after the late supervisor. Lee and the board appointed a nine-member panel to assess the idea, which for some reason took more than three years to come to a recommendation.

Rafael Ramirez Lee