Recently, a Harvey Milk stamp was issued in the United States to honor a man who was the first openly gay person to be elected to a public office. Sadly, his career was cut short before he could even spend a year occupying a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Milk was assassinated by a fellow city official who wanted his job back. In 2009, the man was posthumously given the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Milk is hailed by many as a hero. However, there is at least one group that is so strongly against the idea of a Harvey Milk postage stamp that members of the organization are urging people to refuse pieces of mail that bear it.
The American Family Association, or AFA, calls itself “one of the largest and most effective pro-family organizations in the country with hundreds of thousands of online supporters” in a description on its website. Last week, the AFA published a press release asking people to take a two-part stand against the Harvey Milk stamp. In the message, the organization talks about how a biography of the late politician discussed how Milk allegedly advocated for people having multiple homosexual relationships at once, and also engaged in adult child sex more than once.
“This is not diversity; this is perversity,” the press release warns. It asks readers to refuse the Harvey Milk stamp it is offered by a local post office, and to instead request a generic one that features the American flag. Furthermore, the AFA suggests taking an even more drastic approach by simply refusing to accept mail that has the Harvey Milk stamp on it.
If members of the AFA truly feel so strongly about Milk, the first part of their protest is something that’s relatable to a degree. For a long time, I have firmly believed in concept of “voting with your dollars.” In other words, if there’s something you don’t support for some reason or another, don’t use your money to finance it. You have a right to make that choice.
Since 2006, I have refused to shop at Walmart, and have only had to do so once since then. On that occasion, it was only because the situation was a genuine emergency and I was in a town that did not have any other stores. However, since my self-imposed boycott of Walmart, I have had family members offer to buy me goods, and many of those items came from Walmart. Because I did not use my own money to purchase them, and the products would be otherwise going to waste, I used them.
My choice of how to deal with merchandise that comes from Walmart is one of the many reasons why I find it hard to understand how the second part of the Harvey Milk stamp protest will do anything but cause hassles for the people who send mail to the AFA offices and perhaps don’t know about the boycott.
Members of the AFA certainly have the right to not use the Harvey Milk stamp design on mail they send out. However, what good does it do to send the mail back if an outside party has already purchased the stamp and chooses to use it for correspondence? In fact, judging by some comments related to coverage of this event in a Huffington Post article, the AFA office might soon need to get a much bigger mailbox just to accommodate all the postcards bearing the stamp that people are planning to send from around the country out of spite.
I am a straight ally of the global LGBT community who lives in a place where fighting for the rights of those individuals is often seen as very unpopular. Also, I am a Christian who works as a church volunteer.
The AFA is an organization that has its roots in Christianity. Contrary to what some people may think after reading about the suggested boycott of the Harvey Milk stamp, it is simply not possible to be both a Christian and someone who has nothing but love for individuals who identify with LGBT sexual orientations. However, the way I live my life shows that is a gross misconception, and I am certainly not alone in my ability to blend a strong faith with my desire to be an ally.
When meeting resistance, as I often do, I’m constantly picking battles and trying to figure out how to do the most good for what I believe in without getting wrapped up in things that are ultimately distractions. If, instead of a Harvey Milk stamp, I was given the opportunity to buy one that featured Fred Phelps, the strongly anti-gay founder of the Westboro Baptist Church, I would simply choose not to spend my money in that way, and move on.
Speaking of Phelps, one of the most memorable examples of recent activism that has stood out in my mind was when people came to his recent funeral carrying signs that read “Sorry for your loss.” Members of the Westboro Baptist Church famously picket funerals with signs that have extremely degrading messages on them. It would’ve been very easy for people to respond in kind at Phelps’s own funeral. However, they took the high road and showed understanding, instead.
It’s probably too much to ask for the AFA to embrace the Harvey Milk stamp, but they may be more effective in standing up for what they believe in by doing what I usually must and deciding where energies are best spent.
[Image Credit: Out And About Nashville]