Bill Creating Harvey Milk Day Passes First Assembly Committee
Leno Measure, Sponsored by EQCA, Would Establish Official Day in California to Honor a Gay Civil Rights Pioneer
SACRAMENTO – California could become the first state in the nation to designate a day specifically commemorating a leader of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. The Assembly Education Committee today approved legislation that would establish May 22 as Harvey Milk Day in California.
Assembly Bill 2567 would formally recognize the social contributions of the LGBT civil rights pioneer. Milk, a former San Francisco supervisor, was one of the nation’s first openly gay elected officials. He was assassinated, along with San Francisco Mayor George Moscone, in 1978. AB 2567, authored by Assemblymember Mark Leno and sponsored by Equality California, passed the Education Committee with a 7-3 vote.
“Harvey Milk knowingly risked his life because he believed that by living as an openly gay man he would help achieve full equality for all people,” said EQCA Executive Director Geoff Kors. “His courageous leadership and vision has inspired three decades of progress in the fight to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people across the nation. A statewide day of recognition in his honor would remind us that we all have the power to create positive social change and that we all have the right to live openly and with dignity and respect.”
AB 2567 would proclaim May 22 as Harvey Milk Day, recognizing the anniversary of Milk’s birth. The measure also encourages public schools and educational institutions to conduct activities teaching students about Milk, an important figure who is often left out of history lessons. It would not impact the state budget because it does not increase the number of paid holidays for state employees or suspend public functions.
“Given the alarming rates of suicide, depression, substance abuse, bullying and violence against LGBT youth in our schools, the bill aims to give LGBT and straight students alike a positive representative of who LGBT people are that inspires pride and self esteem rather than fear and shame,” said Assemblymember Leno. “That is what Harvey was all about. He was a true American hero who gave hope to a generation of gay and lesbian individuals, and this bill will help honor and preserve his legacy for years to come.”
During the 1970s, Milk worked to pass an LGBT civil rights ordinance in San Francisco and helped defeat an initiative that would have banned gays and lesbians from teaching in public schools. Milk was tragically assassinated in 1978 by Dan White, a former Board of Supervisors colleague whose beliefs often clashed with his.
“Harvey challenged gay people to come out of the closets and into the streets to demand full and equal participation in all aspects of civic life, even at great personal risk to themselves,” said San Francisco Supervisor Tom Ammiano, a former teacher and friend of Milk’s. “Establishing a day of commemoration in our schools so that students can learn about and be proud of his accomplishments and leadership on behalf of all people’s civil rights is a fitting and important way to honor his legacy.”
California law commemorates the contributions of important historical figures and groups including Martin Luther King, Jr., Cesar Chavez, American Indians and Japanese Americans.