SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - The Salt Lake City Council has voted to hold a public hearing on whether to name a street after pioneering gay leader Harvey Milk alongside thoroughfares honoring civil rights icons like Martin Luther King Jr. and Cesar Chavez.
The council could also take a vote after the April 19 hearing on the proposal from Salt Lake’s first openly gay councilman, Stan Penfold.
“It is a little bit of a personal thing for me,” Penfold told The Salt Lake Tribune on Tuesday. “Harvey Milk was the first openly gay person to be elected to a city council in California. I was the first to be elected to a city council in Utah.”
Milk won a seat on San Francisco’s board of supervisors in 1977, becoming one of the first openly gay men elected to public office in the country. His uncompromising calls for gays to come out of the closet inspired a generation of activists, but he was assassinated at City Hall along with San Francisco Mayor George Moscone by a disgruntled former city supervisor in 1978.
The activist’s life was memorialized in the Oscar-winning 2008 movie “Milk,” and he’s also been honored with a commemorative stamp and a posthumous Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama. The San Diego City Council approved naming a street for Milk in 2012, something officials said was a first.
The proposal to rename part of 900 South in Salt Lake City would highlight the thriving LGBT community in the city that’s home to the Mormon church, whose leaders preach tolerance but have steadfastly opposed same-sex marriage.
Salt Lake City swore in its first its first openly gay mayor, Jackie Biskupski, this year, as well as its second sitting gay councilman. Derek Kitchen was also one of six people who sued to overturn the state’s same-sex marriage ban.
Those milestones came shortly after The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced a new policy for gay members and their children that prompted widespread backlash. It banned baptisms for children of gay parents until the kids turn 18 and disavow same-sex relationships. The announcement was a shock for observers who saw church leaders softening their tone on same-sex attraction and supporting a statewide anti-discrimination law.
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