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
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
Senator Leno and Assemblyman Tom
Ammiano, both openly gay Democrats, and Milk's nephew Stuart Milk
will also attend the event.
Harvey Milk would have turned 80 on