Our Campaign

A grassroots coalition

Our Campaign

A Grassroots Coalition
“I know that you cannot live on hope alone, but without it, life is not worth living. And you…And you…And you…Gotta give em hope.” Harvey Milk

Our Vision

We envision a world where no LGBTQ child questions their worth, where every person of every gender & orientation & identity feels seen & heard & respected. We seek a society that demonstrates its commitment to this world by ensuring inclusion & equity in law & opportunity.

As is well evident, this world does not yet exist. Although we have seen remarkable progress in the rights & recognition of the LGBTQ community in recent decades, LGBTQ people continue to face significant obstacles to housing, healthcare, safety, legal status, job security, & more.

We believe visible, public acknowledgement of the struggles and contributions of the LGBTQ community is a crucial part of this vision. Public art, memorials, & building/street names all send a lasting, powerful message to those who experience them.

So a group of us met. And we talked. And we met again, and again, and again. How do we open the door to commemorate & celebrate the LGBTQ community in Portland? We want this to be a starting point – so we chose a street in a neighborhood historically significant to the LGBTQ community. We sought an active figure in the LGBTQ equality movement, someone who, as per city law, is a household name & has been deceased for 5+ years. After much thought, we decided activist/politician/veteran Harvey Milk is a compelling choice, having nationwide recognition for his legacy & story.

From here, we hope to further enliven the SW Stark neighborhood, to use this opportunity as a starting point to commemorate LGBTQ heroes & icons. It’s a definitive step toward the future we envision, and we hope you’ll join us on this project.

An important part of our project is our community – we would love your participation in our process. Let us know if you want to chat, volunteer, or brainstorm with us!

A Community Effort

We’re a grassroots coalition in Portland who have come together to propose renaming the 13 blocks of SW Stark Street in honor of national LGBTQ hero Harvey Milk. Our broad coalition includes community groups, local LGBTQ organizations, downtown business owners, and passionate individuals. Over 70% of the businesses on SW Stark St have endorsed this effort, and we expect the others to soon join them. Numerous local political and social figures have endorsed the cause as well. Check out our growing list of supporters!

Because Portland is a city that embraces equality & strives for social justice, it has renamed several of its streets after well-known leaders of civil rights movements – Martin Luther King, Jr, Blvd in 1990; Naito Parkway in 1996; Rosa Parks Way in 2007; and César E. Chávez Blvd in 2009. We believe LGBTQ activist Harvey Milk is a powerful, meaningful, inspiring next step.

Our coalition is preparing to soon take this proposal to Portland’s City Council, and we are seeking ways to commemorate more leaders and aspects of the LGBTQ equality movement. Interested in collaborating with us? Say hey!

Why Harvey Milk?

Milk was a national leader in the early stages of the LGBTQ rights movement. The scope of his activism extended well beyond San Francisco – Milk helped in the effort to defeat the anti-LGBTQ Measure 51 in Eugene in 1978, a critical campaign in Oregon’s fledgling LGBTQ civil rights movement. He was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977 and was assassinated the following year by former city council member and anti-gay activist Dan White, who also murdered San Francisco’s pro-equality mayor. To this day, Milk’s legacy and message of hope continues to inspire young LGBTQ citizens around the world.

In 2012, President Barack Obama posthumously awarded Harvey Milk the Presidential Medal of Freedom, making him the only LGBTQ activist to ever receive this highest award. Other cities – most recently Salt Lake City – have named streets and plazas after him to show their commitment to diversity. You can see his full biography here.

Harvey Milk’s LGBTQ activism, legacy, & nationwide household recognition were key factors in our decision, meeting Portland’s street naming requirements, highlighting our vision, and opening the door to further commemorate LGBTQ history & culture in Portland.


Why SW Stark Street?

SW Stark Street was once a center of LGBTQ culture in Portland. A growing number of Portlanders hope to recognize this by renaming the street after Harvey Milk.

The community coalition believes the 13 blocks of SW Stark Street is perfect for this name change – it would demonstrate Portland’s pursuit of equity & inclusion for its citizens, a city that honors its LGBTQ community’s struggle for equality. Additionally, renaming this street after LGBTQ hero Harvey Milk recognizes the cultural/historical significance of this street to the LGBTQ community. As mentioned above, we are looking into ways to commemorate other aspects of our movement along this street with the Portland Bureau of Transportation.

Official Press Release:

Community leaders and local businesses come together to support renaming SW STARK STREET to SW HARVEY MILK STREET

For immediate release: Portland, OR – A grassroots coalition in Portland has come together to propose renaming the 13 blocks of SW Stark Street in downtown Portland in honor of national LGBTQ hero Harvey Milk. The coalition already includes 26 (75%) of the commercial entities on SW Stark Street as well as dozens of community groups, LGBTQ organizations and other members of the downtown business community.

These leaders believe renaming this street after Harvey Milk, a prominent LGBTQ rights activist and one of the first openly LGBTQ elected officials in American history, will help cement Portland as a fair-minded city that honors its LGBTQ citizens’ struggle for equality. The naming of Harvey Milk Street would recognize this part of Portland for its cultural and historical significance to the LGBTQ community.

“Renaming SW Stark St. after gay activist and icon Harvey Milk will send a powerful message to LGBTQ youth that they are valued and respected,” said Basic Rights Oregon’s Mikki Gillette.

Portland has already demonstrated its commitment to equality and social justice by renaming several of its streets after well-known leaders of civil rights movements – Martin Luther King, Jr, Blvd in 1990; Naito Parkway in 1996; Rosa Parks Way in 2007; and César E. Chávez Blvd in 2009.  

“Honoring the LGBTQ equality movement is a decisive next step in Portland’s journey to celebrate all who live here. As a business owner on SW Stark, this effort is an exciting opportunity to demonstrate Portland’s values in our business community, and we’re so thrilled that is has received such widespread support,” said Lisa Schroeder, Chef/Owner of Mother’s Bistro & Bar.

The community coalition, announced today, believes SW Stark Street in downtown Portland is the perfect location for this designation. SW Stark Street was once a center of LGBTQ culture in Portland.  As the LGBTQ community has grown in Portland to areas well beyond SW Stark Street, so too has SW Stark become emblematic of the diversity and community values demonstrated by current local business owners.   

“I am proud to add my enthusiastic support to this proposal to recognize Harvey Milk here in Portland.  He was a role model of courage and honesty for our country,” said Governor Barbara Roberts.

A formal application is being submitted to the Portland Bureau of Transportation to begin the renaming process. In addition, the coalition is reaching out to the Bureau of Transportation about commemorating other leaders & aspects of the LGBTQ movement along this same street.

Check out our endorsers!