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by Laura G. Brown





[]  A few words about Milk, the movie: See it. It's wonderful.

Milk garnered a 2008 Best Picture nomination for its portrayal of Harvey Milk, a campaigner for gay rights who was elected San Francisco City Supervisor in 1977. [Sean Penn won for Best Actor, see right.] Fellow supervisor Dan White killed him in 1978 in an act of homophobic rage.

The film documents Milk's story as an outsider who comes to California seeking personal freedom (a story many libertarians can identify with). He turns outrage against the status quo into political action, seeing public office as a way to improve conditions for gays in San Francisco.

Note to libertarian candidates: Milk loses the first three elections, and finally wins the supervisor seat by focusing on neighborhood ties and building coalitions.

Milk's progress from leading street marches to drafting laws is fascinating to watch, and the homophobia which finally brings him down is a sad commentary on prejudice. That said, the Libertarian Party should "milk" some of this film's themes (neighborhood activism, and standing up to bigotry, injustice, and segregation) for all they're worth.

I couldn't watch Milk without thinking of the Libertarian bookstore in San Francisco's Market Street in the early 1980s. This eclectic storefront attracted a diverse crowd, including such celebrities in the fledgling movement as Jeff Riggenbach and Wendy McElroy, who would stop in to chat or to organize events. Castro Street, prominently featured in the movie, was a five minute bus hop from the store, and looked much as depicted in the movie. The LP was barely 10 years old at the time, and was in a very activist mode in San Francisco. Gay rights were noticeably on the agenda.

Yet in 2008 -- when Milk was released -- the LP National Committee's spokesperson, Andrew Davis, couldn't even make a coherent case against Prop 8 in the party's blog.

Another posting last August on the LPC's website argued that government has no place in marriage -- a Utopian view that ignores the way things are and leaves gays in the lurch.

Our 2008 presidential candidate, Bob Barr (a former Republican), authored the Defense of Marriage Act, which says gay marriage is illegitimate.





With the LP and other civil libertarians so weak on this issue, is it any wonder that church groups mobilized to close the apathy gap and pass the initiative?

Prop 8 can't be tolerated under the concept of equal protection under the law. But the initiative, at least 50 years behind its time, will create lots of enmity as gays get moved to the back of the wedding limo. Boycotts against "pro" donors will hurt in a tight economy. Lawyers are the only ones who stand to benefit from the legal morass before Prop 8 is inevitably overturned.

Twenty-five years past the time I was active in the San Francisco LP, some of us are growing disillusioned. We haven't gotten Libertarians elected, except to local office. Membership is at record low levels. The idea that once people become aware of what Libertarians stand for, they will surely join us, is passé. People know what we stand for, and they overwhelmingly reject our candidates at the polls.

Our coalition building has been with the wrong groups -- conservatives instead of civil libertarians. Who'd a thunk that, in the past five years, you could run into "libertarians" who believe it's okay to invade Iraq, and who want immigrants to go back to Mexico?

I don't mean rank-and-file Libertarians; I mean party leaders.

This article is less about Milk, the movie, than Milk the political idealist and leader of a movement. Ideals such as: "All men are created equal, and are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights…" are inspiring. If you stick to your ideals, you gain followers and can set about accomplishing your vision.

I'll happily return to being an LP activist if party leaders focus on defending the Bill of Rights.



Laura G. Brown is a teacher and writer living in San Gabriel, CA.

She is a veteran candidate for State Assembly on the Libertarian Party of California.

Her email: lauragbrown at sbcglobal dot net


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