Equality California
EQCA Delivers Close to 40K Harvey Milk Day Petitions to Governor

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September 10, 2009

Equality California Delivers Close to 40K Petitions
Urging Governor to Sign Harvey Milk Day Bill into Law

After passing both the Assembly and Senate, bill now heads to Governor's desk

Sacramento -- Today Equality California (EQCA) and Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) delivered close to 40,000 petitions with names of Californians from every part of the state, urging Governor Schwarzenegger to sign into law the Harvey Milk Day Bill (Photos). The bill calls for a "day of special significance" in honor of the slain civil rights leader and seeks to educate Californians about the former San Francisco City Supervisor, who became the nation's first openly lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) person elected to political office in a major city. Tens of thousands of phone calls have also been made from across the state in support of the bill.

"Every day we hear from people who have been touched by Harvey Milk's inspiring message of hope and his story of determination and sacrifice," said Geoff Kors, Equality California executive director. "A champion for the civil rights of all Californians, Milk's remarkable legacy is still felt far beyond San Francisco, and this bill is an appropriate way to pay tribute to the invaluable contributions he made to our state and to our nation."

Recently, President Obama posthumously honored Harvey Milk with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, and Governor Schwarzenegger announced that the global icon will be inducted into the California Hall of Fame, which was conceived of by First Lady Maria Shriver.

Despite the national and international recognition Harvey Milk has garnered this year, the Governor's Secretary of Education recently expressed opposition to the bill, introduced by Senator Leno and sponsored by EQCA, in a letter that reads:

"As you know, the Governor vetoed a substantially similar bill last year. The veto message stated that Harvey Milk's contributions should continue to be recognized at the local level by those who were most impacted by his contributions. Since this bill is nearly identical, the veto message remains applicable."

The legislation was originally introduced last year by Senator Leno, but Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed the measure at the time, claiming Harvey Milk was not well known enough beyond San Francisco. Since then, however, Harvey Milk has become a focal point of national conversation following the release of the successful biographical film Milk, for which both actor Sean Penn and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black received an Academy Award. In March, Penn joined Equality California's campaign publicly advocating for the bill, and Black testified before a Senate committee on the need to appropriately honor the civil rights leader.

Milk's groundbreaking service as an openly gay official helped bring LGBT people out of the closet and into civic life. During his time in office, he was responsible for both passing San Francisco's first gay-rights ordinance and helping to defeat the controversial Briggs Initiative, which sought to ban gay and lesbian teachers from public schools. Milk, along with San Francisco Mayor George Moscone, was assassinated in November 1978.

For more information about EQCA's legislation, visit http://www.eqca.org/legislation.