Equality California
Harvey Milk Day Bill Passes Senate

2010 Press Releases

May 14, 2009

CONTACT: Vaishalee Raja
PHONE: (916) 284-9187 EMAIL: vaishalee@eqca.org

Harvey Milk Day Bill Passes Senate

EQCA-sponsored Bill Now One Step Closer to Becoming Law

Sacramento -- The California State Senate passed the Harvey Milk Day Bill, SB 572, today in a 24-14 vote with bipartisan support. The bill, authored by Senator Mark Leno (D -- San Francisco) and sponsored by Equality California (EQCA), calls for a "day of special significance" in honor of slain civil rights leader Harvey Milk. The bill also 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.

"Harvey Milk risked everything to change the course of history and to advance civil rights for the LGBT community," said EQCA Executive Director Geoff Kors. "There is no one else more fitting to be honored in this way by the state of California."

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 is an inspiration to Californians who believe in fairness and equality," said Senator Leno. "He fought for many of the issues we value today, including access to education, public transportation, affordable housing and protecting the environment. Harvey Milk gave his life for what he believed in, and with that courage and sacrifice he gave hope to an entire generation of gay and lesbian people whose basic humanity and freedom had been denied and dishonored," he said.

The legislation was originally introduced last year by Sen. Leno, but Governor 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 actor Sean Penn and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black received an Academy Award. In March, Penn joined Equality California's campaign publicly calling for the day; earlier this month, Black testified before a Senate Committee on the need to appropriately honor the civil rights leader.

The bill will now go before the Assembly.

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