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Harry Britt, Former S.F. Supervisor and Harvey's Successor, Dies at 82

Harry Britt

The gay activist is remembered as a progressive champion.


Harry Britt died Wednesday at age 82.

The gay activist and politician had been battling numerous health issues for some time, reports The Bay Area Reporter. He passed at the Laguna Honda Hospital in San Francisco.

Britt's death was confirmed Wednesday by former San Francisco supervisor and state Assemblyman Tom Ammiano. "It is with great sadness I report the death of Harry Britt. He was a champion and a friend. Rest in power comrade," Ammiano wrote on Facebook.

After the assassination of Harvey Milk, Britt was appointed to fill the late politician's seat on San Francisco's Board of Supervisors in 1979 by then-mayor Dianne Feinstein. He served until 1993 and was the board's president from 1989 to 1990.

During this time, Britt was a pioneering progressive in S.F. politics. He advocated for rent control, neighborhood preservation, and domestic partnership during the AIDS epidemic, fighting for rights like hospital visitation and bereavement leave for city workers.

In 1987, Britt ran for the U.S. House of Representatives from California's Fifth Congressional District. He narrowly lost a special election to Nancy Pelosi. He would have been the first member of Congress to be out when first elected (Gerry Studds of Massachusetts had come out in 1983, while already in office).

The Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club's board issued a remembrance of Britt. "Harry Britt would not have wanted to be memorialized as a 'legend' or a 'hero.' But for all of us, he will always stand as a queer legend," the board said in a statement on Facebook.

"Harry was the chosen political successor of our club's namesake, Harvey Milk, and helped define progressive & queer values throughout San Francisco," the statement said. "Harry believed that tepid liberalism kept the powerful satisfied with the status quo and that none of us should rest until there is a fundamental transfer of that power to queer and trans folks, women, people of color, and those most damaged by the ills of our society. His fight lives on in all of us."

California State Sen. Scott Wiener, who is gay, lauded Britt as "a pioneer in the LGBTQ community's entry into electoral politics" in a Wednesday statement. "He deeply understood that while allies are essential, we must have our own seat at the table. Harry helped create political space for people like me to serve in elected office. Harry's death is a tragedy. He will be missed."

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Daniel Reynolds

Daniel Reynolds is the editor of social media for The Advocate. A native of New Jersey, he writes about entertainment, health, and politics.
Daniel Reynolds is the editor of social media for The Advocate. A native of New Jersey, he writes about entertainment, health, and politics.