FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 3, 2009
CONTACT: Vaishalee Raja, Equality California
PHONE: 916-284-9187 EMAIL: email@example.com
California Assembly Passes Harvey Milk Day Bill
Equality California-sponsored bill now heads back to Senate for final vote before reaching Governor's desk
Sacramento -- The California State Assembly today passed the Harvey Milk Day bill by a 45-27 vote. 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 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.
Recently, President Obama posthumously honored Harvey Milk with the Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, and Governor Schwarzenegger announced that the global icon will be inducted into the California Hall of Fame, which was conceived by First Lady Maria Shriver.
"Harvey Milk was a champion for seniors, for working people and for those who didn't have a voice, and his courageous work set the stage for many of the key civil rights advances we enjoy today," said Geoff Kors, Equality California executive director. "His remarkable legacy is still felt far beyond San Francisco. As such, we urge Governor Schwarzenegger to recognize Harvey Milk's tremendous contributions to our state and to our nation, just as President Obama has, by signing the Harvey Milk Day bill into law."
Despite the national and international recognition Harvey Milk has garnered this year, the Governor's Secretary of Education recently expressed opposition to the bill in a letter 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."
The legislation 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 then, 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, and Black testified before a Senate committee on the need to appropriately honor the civil rights leader.
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.
"Although he vetoed a similar bill last year with the message that Harvey Milk should be recognized only at the local level, I am confident Governor Schwarzenegger now understands the historic and international nature of Harvey's legacy," said Senator Leno. "Last week the Governor contradicted his 2008 veto message when he and the First Lady announced that Harvey will be inducted into the California Hall of Fame, acknowledging that Harvey and the other inductees touched the 'lives of millions of people -- not just in this state, but around the world.'"
The bill has already passed the Senate by a 24-14 vote, including bipartisan support. The bill must now return to the Senate for a routine concurrence vote before it advances to the Governor's desk.
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