In 1977, when he won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, Harvey Milk became the first openly gay elected official in the United States. Never hiding his sexuality, Milk was the most outspoken and well-known of the first generation of out gay and lesbian politicians. Milk's political activism graw directly out of his commitment to the gay community and his success came not just from the gays and lesbians in his Castro neighborhood, but also from heterosexual working people in other parts of his district who saw his commitment to improving their lives.
In 1978, Harvey Milk and George Moscone, then mayor of San Francisco, were assassinated by Dan White, a former policeman and political opponent. At the trial, White's attorney offered the "Twinkie defense," arguing that White suffered diminished capacity from over consumption of junk food and was therefore not responsible for his actions. Though charged with first-degree murder, Dan White was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter on both counts. His virtual acquittal sparked riots by gays and lesbians in San Francisco and demonstrations across the country.