FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 6, 2009
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Oscar Winner Dustin Lance Black Testifies in Support of Harvey Milk Day
Bill, Sponsored by EQCA and Authored by Sen. Leno, Passes Key Committee
Sacramento – Dustin Lance Black, the Academy Award winning writer of the film Milk, testified before the California State Senate Education Committee shortly before it passed the Harvey Milk Day Bill, SB 572, in a 7-2 vote that included bipartisan support from Sen. Abel Maldonado (R-Santa Maria) who voted for the bill.
"When I was 14 years old, a theatre director in the Bay Area told me the story of Harvey Milk,” said Black, an advocate for equal rights. “It was a story about an out gay man who stood up to prejudice and bigotry, lived openly as who he was, was elected to public office, and lit the fire of today's national and global LGBT civil rights movement. Not surprisingly, his story gave me hope,” he said.
The bill, sponsored by Equality California (EQCA) and introduced by Senator Mark Leno (D – San Francisco) calls for a “day of special significance” honoring Milk and is designed 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.
"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.”
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.
“Harvey Milk gave hope to an entire generation of gay and lesbian people whose basic humanity and freedom had been denied and dishonored,” said Senator Leno. “He literally gave his life so that I and other LGBT elected officials could serve in public office. Thanks to Dustin Lance Black and the creators and stars of the movie “Milk,” Harvey’s incredible story continues to be told around the world. It is only fitting that we continue our work to preserve his legacy for generations to come,” he said.
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 successful release of Milk, the critically acclaimed film depicting the life of the slain civil rights leader for which Black and actor Sean Penn received Academy Awards.
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