Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed legislation on Sept. 30 that would have created a day honoring the late great gay activist Harvey Milk, who was one of the first openly gay elected officials in the country. Assembly Bill 2567 was authored by Assemblymember Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, and sponsored by Equality California (EQCA).
Leno sent a late night message to Bay Times stating, ‚ÄúThe governor‚Äôs veto message: ‚Äė...his contributions should continue to be recognized at the local level by those who were most impacted by his contributions,‚Äô only underscores the need for an ever broader audience to learn of the hope and inspiration that Harvey Milk‚Äôs life represented. Discrimination, inequality and injustice are global issues, which Harvey valiantly fought while sacrificing his own life to an assassin‚Äôs bullet.‚ÄĚ Leno continued, ‚ÄúSean Penn and Gus Van Sant, of the soon to be released movie about Harvey‚Äôs life, understand his national significance.‚ÄĚ Leno emphasized, ‚ÄúThis veto will not deter us from our goal of sharing Harvey‚Äôs message of courage and personal empowerment with all Californians.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúGovernor Arnold Schwarzenegger‚Äôs veto of this bill is a disappointment to thousands and thousands of Californians who regard Harvey Milk as a national hero. This is a sad reminder of the lack of understanding of both the LGBT community and of the impact of Harvey Milk,‚ÄĚ said EQCA Executive Director Geoff Kors. ‚ÄúAs one of the first openly gay leaders in this country, Milk inspired Americans in every corner of our nation to stand proud in the face of adversity, and he gave his life in the pursuit of equality.‚ÄĚ Kors added, ‚ÄúThis fall, Milk‚Äôs story will be celebrated in movie theaters nationwide, MILK, as a tribute to a legacy that extends far beyond California.‚ÄĚ
Assemblyman Leno‚Äôs AB 2567, formally recognizing the legacy of slain civil rights pioneer Milk, had been approved by the Senate on Aug. 5 with a vote of 22-13 and headed back victoriously to the Assembly for a concurrence vote on amendments before heading to Governor Schwarzenegger‚Äôs desk. The bill would have very simply required the governor to proclaim May 22 as Harvey Milk Day and designate it as a ‚Äúday of special significance‚ÄĚ in California. Given the state‚Äôs fiscal crisis, the bill was written to have no additional impact on the budget, and state workers and school employees would not get the day off from work.
‚ÄúBoth houses of our Legislature have now honored Harvey Milk‚Äôs important civil rights legacy, and I am hopeful the governor will sign this bill so that California officially recognizes the message of hope and pride Harvey‚Äôs life inspired,‚ÄĚ said Assemblyman Leno in an interview earlier with Bay Times.
‚ÄúAs one of the nation‚Äôs first openly gay leaders, Harvey Milk inspired his community to stand strong and proud in the face of aversion,‚ÄĚ said Kors in another previous interview with Bay Times. ‚ÄúHis leadership and courage embodies the rise of our civil rights movement, and his achievements and vision will always be an inspiration for Californians of all ages and experiences.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúWe are thrilled the Legislature has passed this measure, recognizing the legacy of Harvey Milk and the important role he played in our state‚Äôs history,‚ÄĚ Kors had said weeks prior to the governor‚Äôs veto.
But right-wing groups once again attacked the LGBT community. This time they flooded the governor‚Äôs office with calls and emails, asking him to veto that legislation that would have honored a man and given a beacon of hope for the LGBT community.
Milk was born on May 22, 1930 and settled in the Castro district of San Francisco in 1972, where he and his partner opened a camera store that became the hub of gay politics. In 1977, Milk became the first openly gay elected official of any large city in the United States, and only the third openly gay elected official in the nation. While in office, Milk worked to pass a gay rights ordinance and defeat Proposition 6, commonly known as the Briggs Initiative, which would have banned gays and lesbians from teaching in public schools. Milk encouraged LGBT people to be visible in society and believed coming out was the only way they could achieve true social equality. Tragically, Milk and SF Mayor George Moscone were assassinated in City Hall on November 27, 1978 by a deeply homophobic former colleague on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
If the governor had signed the measure, California would have become the first state in the nation to designate a day honoring a leader of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. AB 2567 would have added Harvey Milk Day to a list of other special days designated to commemorate those individuals and communities that have helped to further California‚Äôs legacy as a land of promise and opportunity.
Call the governor‚Äôs office now (916) 445-2841 and convince him to change his mind about AB 2567. Or send him an email today at gov.ca.gov/interact (use Education Issues as the subject header).
‚ÄúLet the governor know that Californians value the contributions of Harvey Milk, who gave his life for the causes of freedom and equality,‚ÄĚ implored Alice Kessler, EQCA government affairs director. And just consider the fact that this bill would have cost NOTHING to the state or the taxpayers. Ahem. This reporter smells QUEER DISCRIMINATION!!!