A postage stamp honoring gay rights activist Harvey Milk was officially dedicated at the White House on Thursday as the stamp went on sale at post offices across the country.
The commemorative stamp features a smiling black-and-white photo of Milk, who became California’s first openly gay elected official when he won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977.
Milk was assassinated less than a year after taking office.
Thursday night, another dedication ceremony will take place in San Francisco, where long lines formed in front of the U.S. Post Office in the Castro District on Thursday morning.
- Photos: "Milk" Premieres in the Castro
"Stamps are selling briskly," USPS spokesman James Wigdel said.
AIDS Memorial Quilt creator Cleve Jones, who was an aide to Milk, and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, who won an Oscar for the 2008 movie "Milk," joined dozens of people who lined up at the Castro post office to buy the new stamp.
Both Black and Jones, who was an intern in Milk’s office when he was assassinated, turned down the invitation to the White House stamp unveiling to celebrate the way they said Harvey would have.
“It was a great honor (to be invited),” Jones said, “but we really wanted to be here today in Harvey Milk’s neighborhood with his people and friends of his still around.”
“We said, ‘What would Harvey do? What’s in our hearts?’ And that it’s not time to pop champagne at the White House – we’re not done with the fight,” Jones said. “We’ll pop champ when we’re done with the fight.”
An informal dedication ceremony was held at 5 p.m. at Harvey Milk Plaza with San Francisco City Supervisor Scott Wiener and other community members, including Black and Jones.
A more formal ceremony will be held at San Francisco's City Hall Rotunda next Wednesday at 3:30 p.m., with members of Milk's family expected to attend, according to Wigdel.
Thursday is Harvey Milk Day throughout the state, which in 2009 officially named the date in honor of Milk, who was gunned down in San Francisco City Hall, along with Mayor George Moscone, on Nov. 27, 1978, by disgruntled former Supervisor Dan White.
Thursday would have been Milk's 84th birthday.
At San Francisco's GLBT History Museum at 4127 18th St., admission was free in honor of Harvey Milk Day.
Docent-led tours are offered every hour on the hour at the museum, which is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Chad Christensen said he had to go to multiple post offices to get the Milk stamps. Then he brought his 3-year-old daughter to the GLBT museum to view a new exhibit honoring Milk.
“I’m not gay, but I think it’s important to teach all aspects of life...different types of history,” Christensen said. “I don’t think we should leave anything out.”
At least one group disagrees. The Campaign for Children and Families
dedicated a page on its “Save California” website
to warning parents to protect their children from “Harvey Milk Gay Day.” The page advises parents call schools to find out if they are holding activities honoring Milk and even to keep their kids from school on Harvey Milk Day.
But Milk supporters say he was an advocate, not just for those in the GLBT community, but for those who didn’t have a voice.
“He was a politician of the people, a populist,” Black said.
“He really fought for everybody here in San Francisco,” Christensen said, “and that is what we need now in San Francisco.”
The Associated Press and Bay City News contributed to this report.