Friday, October 23, 2009

Harvey Milk Honored Posthumously in California

He was from Woodmere, New York, but made his case for gay civil rights in San Francisco, California. And now, some 30 years after his assassination, California will forever commemorate his passing, his life, his memory.

Harvey Milk will get a special day of recognition.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s signing of the bill establishing “Harvey Milk Day” each May 22, Milk’s birthday, was announced Monday. The Republican governor vetoed similar legislation a year ago.

In the interim, Milk was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in August and was the subject of a movie for which Sean Penn won the Academy Award for best actor. Penn spoke out in favor of the bill last spring, saying he didn’t want to insult Schwarzenegger’s intelligence by assuming the governor would again oppose creating Harvey Milk Day.

“He has become much more of a symbol of the gay community than he was a year ago because of those things,” Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear said. “That made the difference from last year: he’s really come to symbolize the gay community in California”

"Harvey Milk Day” will not be a formal state holiday, so government employees will not be given the day off. The bill instead calls for the day to be observed by public schools as a day of special significance. Teachers will be encouraged to conduct exercises recalling Milk’s life and contributions to the state.

That message should be a simple one at that. Harvey Milk stood for the principle that gay people are decent Americans and should be recognized for such. We have never asked for special rights. We have always asked for the same rights others have had.

If we ask to marry, it is because others similarly situated have had that sacred right. If we ask to serve as soldiers, it is because our country is our country. We have never asked to be picked up, just requested not to be put down. We have never asked for anything other than a doctrinal truth articulated in the Declaration of Independence: "That all men are created equal..."

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