The man who set America straight about gay rights

The release of a Hollywood biopic about Harvey Milk, America's first openly gay elected politician, couldnot be more timely. Guy Adams reports

Thursday 30 October 2008 01:00

The streetcars are being renamed and the red carpets rolled out in the Castro district of San Francisco for the world premiere of Milk, the latest film to break Hollywood's long-running taboo over homosexuality.

A roar of approval greeted Sean Penn and Josh Brolin as they swept past several hundred people who had gathered on Tuesday to applaud the biopic of Harvey Milk, America's first openly gay elected politician who was assassinated in a corridor of the nearby City Hall 30 years ago.

Many in the crowd also used the occasion to protest, waving signs urging "Vote No on Proposition Eight". The measure would eliminate same-sex marriage in California if it were to be passed next week, and the battle serves as a topical reminder of how much still stands in the way of the movement that has elevated Milk to iconic status.

The colourful event brought considerable star power to Castro Street, the main street through the most famous gay and lesbian district in San Francisco, where Milk's reign as city supervisor was cut short after he was shot and killed along with the Mayor, George Moscone, having served only 11 months in office.

The actors Emile Hirsch, Diego Luna, and the director Gus Van Sant – the man behind the 1997 film Good Will Hunting – were joined by local politicians, together with Milk's old friends and contacts, many dressed as Seventies drag queens.

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