White Privilege

In January 1984, five years after he gunned down San Francisco mayor George Moscone and openly gay supervisor Harvey Milk at City Hall, Dan White walked out of Soledad State Prison to finish the remaining year of his sentence on parole.

White, a former police officer and city supervisor, successfully avoided a murder conviction by arguing that heavy consumption of junk food impaired his reasoning in the hours leading up to the shootings. Swayed by the so-called “Twinkie defense,” jurors convicted White of voluntary manslaughter.

Dan White in city hall in January 1978.

Dan White served just five years in prison for assassinating George Moscone and Harvey Milk in 1978. Photo: Robert Clay / Alamy Stock Photo.

As White’s release date approached, California corrections officials decided it would be best to let the high-profile convict serve his parole out of state. But their efforts were stymied as state after state turned them down. Nobody wanted Dan White.

In the end, they secretly transported White to Los Angeles and handed him over to the Los Angeles Police Department. He eventually took up residence in a rented apartment.

Outrage and Heartache

White’s parole sparked outrage in the gay and lesbian community, still mourning the loss of one of its most visionary leaders. In San Francisco, civil rights attorney Mary Dunlap joined other gay and lesbian leaders at a protest in Union Square, where they denounced White’s lenient sentence as well as his lack of remorse for the brutal killings.

In a telephone interview for Pacifica Radio the day after the protest, Dunlap discussed the impact of the crime and the community’s anger and heartache.

Less than two years later, White killed himself in San Francisco. The act brought a sense of closure to the community, but little satisfaction. Gay activist Morris Kight spoke for many when he suggested that perhaps White felt remorse after all.

Both of these interviews have been preserved thanks to the ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives at the University of Southern California.

LGBT Pioneers

Dunlap and Kight, who died just two days apart in January 2003, were both pioneers in the LGBT movement.

Dunlap was a founder of Equal Rights Advocates, a public interest law firm that specializes in gender equality cases. She was the first out lesbian to argue before the U.S. Supreme Court, representing the Gay Olympics in 1987.

Kight founded several early gay rights organizations, including the Los Angeles Gay Liberation Front, the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, Aid for AIDS and the Stonewall Democratic Club. He spearheaded the first gay pride parade in Los Angeles in 1970.

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