San Francisco International Airport, the seventh-busiest in the U.S. by passenger traffic, may be renamed to honor assassinated gay-rights leader Harvey Milk.
The proposal would go before voters on the Nov. 5 ballot if a measure introduced yesterday by Supervisor David Campos is approved by the Board of Supervisors.
“It’s about time that an out gay person was recognized on this international scale,” state Assemblyman Tom Ammiano of San Francisco, a member of the legislature’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Caucus, said in a statement released by Campos’s office.
Harvey Milk San Francisco International Airport would be the first in the U.S. to be named after an openly homosexual person and follows voter approval of same-sex marriage ballot measures in three U.S. states in November. Milk, a member of the Board of Supervisors, or city council, was the first openly gay man elected to public office in the U.S.
Milk and Mayor George Moscone were shot to death in City Hall in 1978 by former Supervisor Dan White. California law designates May 22, Milk’s birthday, as Harvey Milk Day, when schools are encouraged to commemorate his life.
The airport proposal may come up for a vote by the supervisors in as soon as two weeks, said Nate Allbee, a legislative aide for Campos.
“Harvey recognized the significance and potential of San Francisco, a place where the LGBT community and others would find inclusion and the celebration of diversity,” Stuart Milk, Harvey Milk’s nephew, said in the Campos statement.
“It’s about sending a message that recognizes the contributions of this openly gay man who gave his life for his beliefs,” Campos, who is gay, said yesterday in a telephone interview. “It provides an opportunity to recognize the dignity of LGBT people.”
San Francisco became the first government in the U.S. to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples in 2004 after then- Mayor Gavin Newsom, now California’s lieutenant governor, ordered the city to issue them. The process was halted by a court challenge.
The U.S. Supreme Court is preparing to hear arguments in March on the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriage, and the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which limits marriage benefits to opposite-sex couples.
“The airport does not have an opinion on this matter and if it becomes legislation, it would be a measure that the voters of San Francisco would render judgment on,” said Doug Yakel, a spokesman for San Francisco International.
San Francisco International is ranked behind John F. Kennedy International in New York City among the busiest U.S. airports, with 40.8 million total passengers in 2011, by the Airports Council International North America.
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