The Gay Human Rights: Harvey Milk Contributions


It is a struggle to achieve comprehensive gay human rights in any society. In this context, gay human rights have attracted conflicts over the years. The struggle for gay rights is traceable since 1924 and has since gained momentum due to increased public awareness and debate. This research paper introduces the struggle for gay human rights and conflicts since history. An in-depth analysis of philosophical, psychological and political theories of nonviolence offers an insight into how conflicts can be solved. In addition, this research paper reviews the biography of Harvey Milk as a politician and gay human rights activist. Milk’s achievements in politics are critical in using political nonviolence to solve conflicts derived from struggles to achieve gay human rights.

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For many years, gay people have struggled to have their human rights respected. Since 1942, gay people have been subjected to inhumane acts by their heterosexual counterparts. However, the struggle for gay human rights has been championed through nonviolence efforts. The use of nonviolence in resolving conflicts is critical in maintaining peace. Historically, nonviolence has been used by civil rights organizations as recommended by renowned activists like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King. In this research paper, an in-depth evaluation of the conflicts associated with gay human rights is well documented. An evaluation of nonviolence theories in relation to gay human rights struggle is discussed in this paper. Harvey Milk and his contribution in the struggle to preserve gay human rights are discussed from a theoretical perspective. This research paper provides an in-depth understanding of gay human rights as a historical conflict.

Conflict history

As indicated earlier, gay rights were first addressed in 1924 by the civil society. In this regards, gay people were subjected to discrimination based on their sexual behavior. Considering that gay people were discriminated at social places, a struggle for equality and social justice was inevitable. For many years, homosexuality was considered a crime and the federal law subjected the related activities to sodomy laws prohibiting oral and anal sex. In this regard, gay people were denied justice in courts and employment especially in government institutions. Activists compare the mistreatment of homosexuals to that Jews during the Second World War. From this context, homosexuals got inspiration from the African American Civil Right Movement to agitate for equal rights and protection using nonviolence.

For a long time, homosexuality has caused a conflict of culture, religious and national values. Many of the anti-gay activists perceive homosexual acts as unnatural. In this regard, gay people are victims of prejudice and hate from the heterosexual community. For years, gay people have been subjected to acts of violence, brutal kicking, social stigmatization and murder. On the other hand, mainstream religious factions have openly denied acts of homosexuality. In fact, the government uses religious beliefs as a point of reference when making anti-gay laws. In this context, majority of governments and respective states believe that homosexual acts erode national values that dignify the society and family unit.

Nonviolence theories

Holmes theory of nonviolence

This theory is based on a philosophical view that discourages physical and psychological violence (Mayton, 2009, p. 32). In this regard, Holmes theory of nonviolence has two categories of nonviolence. In addition, the two categories are based on the principles that one should not kill, wage war or use physical and psychological violence. In this regard, several acts of nonviolence emanate from this theory.

For example, gay human rights activists will be required to suffer willingly from discrimination, abuse and violence without action. Moreover, this theory of nonviolence encourages passive resistance where gay human rights activists will not cooperate with anyone. In addition, using militant nonviolence is also encouraged by Holmes theory. In this regard, gay human rights activists are urged to be aggressive and active when fighting for their rights. Militant nonviolence recommends use of moral actions when changing the status quo or perception about gay rights. Holmes theory perceives acts of violence as morally wrong, ineffective and only causes damage. This theory contradicts anti-gay activists, religious and government policy on the same since they use violence to fight homosexuality. In this regard, gay human rights activist seem to have a moral advantage in the conflict.

Brene’s model of peaceful selfhood

This model is based on a psychological view that the culture of peace can be achieved through self improvement. This model seeks to improve peace in the society by recommending individuals to seek personal welfare, health and a balance of things (Mayton, 2009, p. 45). This theory assumes that the conflict between two parties can be achieved if each party contemplates on individual welfare before engaging in community matters. In this regard, all individuals will be in a position to treat others equally irrespective of cultural preferences and sexual orientation. In addition, this theory argues that an egoistic shift of one’s orientation should focus on a collective approach towards equality.

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Moreover, individuals are advised to lead an altruistic life. However, altruistic life practices are better initiated by anti-gay activists who should develop a concern for others in order to achieve social justice. This theory assumes that the common good is founded on the model of peaceful selfhood where anti-gay activists do not interfere with a balance of nature. It is no secret that homosexuality raises a critical issue regarding the nature of sexuality. However, homosexuality creates a balance between heterosexuals and gay people. In this context, gay human rights and their opponents must respect life and derive consciousness of sex orientation.

Gandhi’s political theory of nonviolence

Gandhi’s theory is based on a pragmatic political and religious view that human beings are innately nonviolent. Gandhi’s nonviolent theory asserts that one’s goal is strongly related to that of others. In this regard, a common ground cannot be achieved through dominance, violence and injustice (Mayton, 2009, p. 46). Gandhi’s theory promotes self-reliance, refusal to surrender basic human rights, cooperation, persistence, dialogue, objectivity and progressive advancement of the human rights campaign. From this perspective, gay human rights activists have a foundation to negotiate for their rights using a political platform. The gradual advancement of gay human rights agenda can be done through civil disobedience or by issuing ultimatums to the government. Gandhi’s theory recommends that the oppressed should influence national issues by getting involved in politics.

Harvey Milk

Harvey Milk was born on 22nd May 1930 in New York. Born in a Jewish family, Milk schooled and graduated from high school in 1951. Milk joined the United States navy during the Korean War, but later worked as a teacher, stock analyst and banker after leaving the army. While in New York, Milk befriended gay radicals and got oriented into homosexuality by the time he moved to San Francisco (Shilts, 2008, p. 11). Although Milk knew his gay tendencies at a young age, he never acknowledged the same publicly until he was in San Francisco. By 1973, Milk became a public figure in political activism. In fact, Milk became the first gay person to be elected in San Francisco’s City-County Board (Shilts, 2008, p. 12). In respect to this, Milk inclusion of gay activists in his campaigns was viewed as a great achievement for the American gay community.

Milk used his position to agitate for gay rights. In this regard, Milk used a political-based theory to engage the country in a national debate on gay human rights. Milk is renowned for his civic mobilization skills especially in leading the gay community to boycott businesses and companies discriminating against the homosexuals. Milk sought support from the straight working-class and other minority voters to galvanize the public to acknowledge gay human rights.


The struggle for gay human rights has attracted one of the most controversial conflicts in history. Gay human rights are a fundamental component of social justice. For example, gay human rights seek equal treatment in terms of employment and access to social amenities. However, such has attracted sharp criticism and conflict from religious, government and anti-gay activists. In this regard, effective conflict resolution theories are critical. Psychological, philosophical and political theories of nonviolence can resolve gay human rights conflicts. In this context, Harvey Milk is acknowledged as one of the historical figures who championed gay rights through political theory of nonviolence.


Mayton, D. (2009). Nonviolence and peace psychology: Intrapersonal, interpersonal, societal and world peace. Putnam, CT: Spring. Web.

Shilts, R. (2008). The mayor of Castro Street: The life and times of Harvey Milk. New York, NY: St. Martins Press. Web.

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