House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a San Francisco Democrat, will be among the dignitaries celebrating California's inaugural Harvey Milk Day Friday at an event sponsored by the state's largest gay rights advocate, Equality California, in San Francisco.
Last October, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law state Senator Mark Leno's Harvey Milk Day bill after the governor had vetoed a similar measure the previous year. In vetoing the first bill, Schwarzenegger said Milk's accomplishments should be celebrated at the local level.
But Milk's profile soared during the intervening months, leaving the Republican governor with few options but to sign the legislation. President Obama honored Milk with a Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award; the California Museum, which was conceived by Schwarzenegger's wife, Maria Shriver, was about to induct him into its California Hall of Fame; and a movie about his life, Milk, drew national attention to the tumultuous early years of the gay rights movement.
Harvey Milk Day honors the gay rights leader on his May 22 birthday.
Milk became the first openly gay elected official from a major U.S. city when he was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977. He won on a platform of civil rights but his tenure was cut short when he was gunned down by a disgruntled former supervisor, Dan White, the following year.
“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,” Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California (EQCA), said in a statement.
In urging the governor to veto the bill, opponents of giving Milk his own day painted the politician as unworthy of such an honor.
“So, under 'Harvey Milk Gay Day,' elementary and secondary schoolchildren could be taught adult-child homosexual 'sex' is OK, having multiple sexual relationships at the same time is OK, and telling a very public lie is OK if it 'gets you ahead,'” socially conservative group SaveCalifornia.com said on its website.
Harvey Milk would have turned 80 on Friday.
Source: On Top Magazine