Despite ample evidence of premeditation, public knowledge of political and personal clashes, and a taped confession, Dan White was charged with voluntary manslaughter after he assassinated San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk in 1978.
White was a disgruntled former city supervisor who had previously served as a police officer, then a firefighter. White was angry at the Moscone’s refusal to reappoint him after he left his position claiming the salary was not enough to support his family, and bore a grudge against Milk after he had reportedly lobbied against White’s reappointment.
The charge of voluntary manslaughter was seen by the LGBTQ community as a miscarriage of justice, sparking the White Night Riots.
When elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, Milk became one of the first openly gay elected officials in the U.S. He quickly became an advocate for marginalized communities in San Francisco and beyond, fighting not only for LGBTQ rights, but for equality for women, and racial and ethnic minorities. White had a history of disagreeing politically with Moscone, Milk, and other progressive city officials, with White casting the only vote against San Francisco’s landmark gay rights ordinance. The ordinance was eventually passed by the Board and signed by Moscone in that same year.