FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 3, 2009
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Oscar Winner Sean Penn Leads Call for Harvey Milk Day
Penn Joins Equality California and Sen. Leno to Introduce Legislation Honoring Slain Civil Rights Leader
San Francisco - Sean Penn, Academy Award-winning star of Milk, called for a statewide "day of special significance" in honor of slain civil rights leader Harvey Milk. On Tuesday, Penn joined State Senator Mark Leno and State Assemblymember Tom Ammiano at a press conference to introduce the Harvey Milk Day Bill, SB 572. Sponsored by Equality California (EQCA), the bill 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 major political office.
Milk's 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.
"We may have lost Harvey Milk, but we have not lost his passion, his commitment, and his courage to fight for equality and justice for all," said Geoff Kors, Executive Director of Equality California. "Harvey Milk is not just a hero to LGBT people. His endurance in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges is a source of pride for every Californian. This bill aims to give people a positive representation of who LGBT people are -- an image that inspires pride and self esteem for all."
"Harvey Milk was a true American hero," said Senator Leno. "He gave hope to an entire generation of gay and lesbian people whose basic humanity and freedom had been denied and dishonored, and he literally gave his life so that I and other LGBT elected officials could serve in public office. Harvey's courage still inspires us today as we continue to struggle for equal rights following the passage of Proposition 8 in California. His story has been told around the world in "Milk," starring Academy Award winner Sean Penn, and today we fittingly continue our work to preserve that legacy for generations to come."
The measure would proclaim May 22nd 'Harvey Milk Day' and add it to the list of state holidays, although it will be crafted in a way so as not to generate additional state costs or increase the number of paid state holidays.
The legislation was originally introduced last year by Sen. Leno, but Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the measure at the time, claiming Harvey Milk was not well known enough beyond San Francisco. Since that time, however, Harvey Milk has become a focal point of national conversation following the release of the film Milk. Following the Milk's success, both Sean Penn and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black received an Oscar for their work on the film.
Equality California (EQCA) is the largest statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender-rights advocacy organization in California. In the past decade, EQCA has strategically moved California from a state with extremely limited legal protections for LGBT individuals to a state with some of the most comprehensive civil-rights protections in the nation. EQCA has passed over 50 pieces of legislation and continues to advance equality through legislative advocacy, public education and community empowerment. www.eqca.org
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