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Date Permissions Signed
Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Neem, Johann N.
Kennedy, Kathleen, 1963-
Lopez, A. Ricardo, 1974-
The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) movement scored two historic victories in California in the late 1970s. Despite difficult odds, the movement succeeded in electing Harvey Milk as the first openly gay male candidate to political office in the country. The election of Harvey Milk to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors took place at time when anti-gay ballot initiatives were being approved by large majorities of voters in states across the country. Furthermore, the LGBT liberation movement succeeded in defeating an anti-gay ballot initiative in California in 1978, Proposition 6. Based on extensive primary source research, this thesis argues that certain historical conditions, which activists had little control over, made these victories possible, namely, the protest movements and radicalization of the 1960s, the massive migration of LGBT people to San Francisco, and the establishment of district-based elections rather than city-wide elections for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. California Senator John Briggs also made the mistake of writing Proposition 6 in a way that most California voters regarded as too extreme. In addition, activists used progressive left-wing strategies that proved to be decisive in electing Milk and defeating Proposition 6. Specifically, LGBT activists formed coalitions with unions, low-income workers, and oppressed groups, they organized visible mass demonstrations, and thousands of LGBT came out of the closet and directly confronted the homophobic arguments of their opponents. Historians and corporate media outlets give much of the credit for shifting public opinion against Proposition 6 to high profile politicians and media outlets. However, this thesis demonstrates that grassroots activists played the lead role in shifting public opinion against the initiative, not the established politicians or corporate media outlets.
Western Washington University
Subjects – Names (LCNAF)
San Francisco (Calif.); California
Copying of this thesis in whole or in part is allowable only for scholarly purposes. It is understood, however, that any copying or publication of this thesis for commercial purposes, or for financial gain, shall not be allowed without the author's written permission.
Khalil, Ramy K., "Harvey Milk and California Proposition 6: how the gay liberation movement won two early victories" (2012). WWU Masters Thesis Collection. 208.