FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 14, 2009
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Equality California's Harvey Milk Day Bill Wins Key Senate Committee Vote
Bill, Authored by Sen. Leno, Now Moves to Senate Education Committee
Sacramento -- The California State Senate Governmental Organization Committee passed the Harvey Milk Day Bill, SB 572, by a 9-4 margin. The bill, sponsored by Equality California (EQCA) and introduced last month by Senator Mark Leno (D -- San Francisco) calls for a "day of special significance" to recognize slain civil rights leader Harvey Milk. The bill will also 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.
Debra Jones, who served alongside Cleve Jones as an intern for then Supervisor Milk in 1978, testified at today's hearing saying, "There are some who say that Harvey's contributions to the civil rights movement should merely be acknowledged locally. With that perspective, Dr. Martin Luther King's legacy would not be known outside of Atlanta, and the legacy of Cesar Chavez would not be known outside of the Central Valley. Hope doesn't know geographic boundaries."
Three Senators signed on as co-authors of the bill today, including Dean Florez (D-Bakersfield) who specifically emphasized the importance of the bill to all parts of California.
"We may have lost Harvey Milk, but we have not lost his passion, his commitment, and his courage," said Geoff Kors, EQCA Executive Director. "Harvey Milk's endurance in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges is a source of pride and inspiration for every Californian, LGBT and straight alike."
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.
Last month, Academy Award-winning actor Sean Penn joined Equality California's campaign for the day of special significance.
"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."
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 successful biographical film Milk, for which both Penn and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black received an Academy Award.
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