FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 25, 2009
CONTACT: Vaishalee Raja, Equality California
PHONE: 916-284-9187 EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org
Governor Schwarzenegger, First Lady Maria Shriver
Will Induct Harvey Milk into California Hall of Fame
EQCA Calls for Governor to Sign Bill Commemorating Legacy of Civil Rights Leader
Sacramento -- Today, Governor Schwarzenegger and First Lady Maria Shriver announced that Harvey Milk will be inducted into the California Museum's California Hall of Fame in honor of his work to advance civil rights for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community.
"Harvey Milk is truly deserving of this honor -- his tremendous legacy is still felt today worldwide," said Geoff Kors, Equality California (EQCA) executive director. "We urge Governor Schwarzenegger to take the next step in recognizing Harvey Milk's courageous work championing equal protections for all, just as President Obama has, and to sign the Harvey Milk bill into law as a tribute to his invaluable contributions to our state and nation."
The California Hall of Fame, conceived by First Lady Maria Shriver, was established in 2006 to honor legendary people like Jackie Robinson, Cesar E. Chavez, and Billie Jean King who embody California's innovative spirit and have left a mark in history.
Last month, President Obama posthumously honored Harvey Milk with the Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor. Governor Schwarzenegger also honored Harvey Milk in January to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), California's principal civil rights non-discrimination law.
Despite the national and international recognition Harvey Milk has garnered, the Governor's Secretary of Education recently sent a letter opposing the Harvey Milk Day bill 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."
Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) re-introduced the Harvey Milk Day bill, sponsored by EQCA, earlier this year. The bill calls for a "day of special significance" in honor of slain civil rights leader Harvey Milk and seeks to educate Californians about the former San Francisco City Supervisor, the nation's first openly LGBT person elected to political office in a major city.
"This month I had the privilege to meet and talk with President Obama who bestowed the nation's highest honor upon my uncle for his enduring 'message of hope -- hope unashamed, hope unafraid' as the President stated in his public comments," said Stuart Milk, nephew of Harvey Milk. "I am hopeful that Governor Schwarzenegger will also take the time to meet with me along with others whose lives are touched by Harvey Milk. Although the California Secretary of Education doesn't yet understand my uncle's global impact, I do believe the Governor can see the President's perspective when the President said, 'Harvey Milk was here to recruit us -- all of us -- to join a movement and change a nation,'" Milk added.
Harvey Milk's groundbreaking service 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.
The Harvey Milk Day bill 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 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 advocating for the bill while Black testified before a Senate committee on the need to appropriately honor the civil rights leader.
The bill has already passed the State Senate by a 24-14 vote, including bipartisan support. The bill now moves to the Assembly floor for a concurrence vote and then the Governor's desk, where, this year, supporters hope he will sign the bill into law.
The 2009 California Hall of Fame inductees are: entertainer Carol Burnett, former Intel CEO Andrew Grove, governor and U.S. senator Hiram Johnson, decathlete and philanthropist Rafer Johnson, industrialist Henry J. Kaiser, philanthropist and peace activist Joan Kroc, film-maker George Lucas, football commentator John Madden, artist Fritz Scholder, author Danielle Steel, fitness and bodybuilding pioneer Joe Weider, and Air Force test pilot General Chuck Yeager. The California Hall of Fame induction ceremony will take place on Tuesday, December 1, 2009, at the California Museum in Sacramento.
To find out more information about EQCA's legislation, visit www.eqca.org/legislation.
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