'Harvey Milk Day' signed into law
October 12, 2009 3:47 PM
Harvey Milk is now not only part of California's history, but a part of its law. Today, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger decided to honor the slain gay activist with a statewide holiday that will fall on his birthday, May 22.
"Harvey Milk Day" will not be a formal state holiday, but schools will be encouraged to teach their students about Milk.
The bill, written by State Sen. Mark Leno, was a source of contentious debate between equal rights groups and conservative family councils.
After vetoing a similar bill last year, and recently implying that he would veto all of the bills on his desk if the legislature did not agree on a water bill, Schwarzenegger surprised many with his decision to honor Milk.
"Honestly, I didn't expect it to pass," said Autumn Barr, 21, president of SF State's Queer Association. "I didn't suspect support at all so I'm really excited and surprised."
To celebrate, Barr said she would "throw back a beer tonight in his name" and send out a notice celebrating the victory to members of QA.
Other SF State students are wary of how a day honoring a man who symbolized the gay civil rights movement 30 years ago translates to the present.
While addressing Milk's impact on the history of gay rights, 22-year-old Nathan Mertz who describes himself as "not the traditional gay man," questioned the relevance of the new law to current gay issues.
"I think Harvey Milk Day will bring more attention to him, but not to the gay community," Mertz said.
Other students think the new law is significant in some ways, but empty in others.
"It's more of a token than anything," said 24-year-old Drew Van. "What does it really mean to have a day? Milk was a great man...but there's still a lot of homophobic practices and racism."
Milk was the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California 1977. After serving on San Francisco's Board of Supervisors for only 11 months, Milk, along with then Mayor George Moscone, were assassinated by fellow board member Dan White on Nov. 27, 1978.
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