Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 13 / 29 March 2018

Online Extra: Gays Across America: Coalition gathers support for 'Milk Street'


Harvey Milk may have a street in Portland, Oregon named after him. Photo: Daniel Nicoletta
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A coalition in Portland, Oregon is working to rename 13 blocks of SW Stark Street in the city's downtown after slain gay rights icon Harvey Milk.

Community groups, businesses, and others say renaming the street would honor LGBTQ residents and recognize the area's significance to the community, since many gay restaurants and bars used to be located there.

Referring to the Trump administration, Mikki Gillette, of Basic Rights Oregon, said in a news release, "The LGBTQ community is under attack daily by this administration," and renaming the street after Milk "will send a powerful message to LGBTQ youth that they are valued and respected.

The city has already renamed streets after Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and Cesar Chavez.

"Honoring the LGBTQ equality movement is a decisive next step in Portland's journey to celebrate all who live here," stated Lisa Schroeder, the chef and owner of Mother's Bistro & Bar. "As a business owner on SW Stark, this effort is an exciting opportunity to demonstrate Portland s values in our business community, and we re so thrilled that is has received such widespread support."

Along with Mother's, more than two-dozen other businesses on SW Stark are part of the coalition.

Former Oregon Governor Barbara Roberts is also backing the campaign.

"I am proud to add my enthusiastic support to this proposal to recognize Harvey Milk here in Portland," stated Roberts. "He was a role model of courage and honesty for our country."

Milk was the first openly gay man elected to office in California when he was voted onto San Francisco's Board of Supervisors in November 1977. He and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated a year later by former supervisor Dan White.

The coalition – known as the Harvey Milk Street Project – plans to submit a formal application to the Portland Bureau of Transportation to begin the process of renaming the street.

In a phone interview, Ira Zimmermann, a coalition spokesman, said that so far, he's not aware of any opposition to the project, but that could change.

"In the past, street renamings in Portland have been very controversial," he said. For example, white supremacists protested the street being renamed in honor of King, said Zimmermann.

"It's not like we're just expecting this to sail through," he said.

Coalition members have talked to some business owners "who just don't want to be involved" with the Milk project because "they're worried it will be divisive if they put their name to anything like this. ... They see this as a political project," said Zimmermann, who added, "I don't really see it that way, but I can see how some might think that."

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Gays Across America is a column addressing LGBTQ issues nationwide. It runs most Tuesdays. Please submit comments or column ideas to Seth Hemmelgarn at (415) 875-9986 or



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