SACRAMENTO, Calif. (BP)–A bill that would encourage California public schools to observe “Harvey Milk Day” and to remember the deceased homosexual leader with “commemorative exercises” passed the state Senate Tuesday and is heading to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who hasn’t taken a position on it.
Schwarzenegger actually vetoed a similar bill last year but is under more pressure this year in light of President Obama recently awarding a Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously to Milk, the nation’s first openly homosexual person elected to public office. Milk was a San Francisco city supervisor who was assassinated in 1978 by another supervisor. The fact that the biographical movie “Milk” was released last year only adds to the pressure on the governor.
The bill (S.B. 572) would commemorate Milk with what the state calendar calls a day of “significance.” The only other such days are the Day of the Teacher (second Wednesday of May), John Muir Day (April 21) and California Poppy Day (April 6). Harvey Milk Day would be his birthday, May 22.
Schwarzenegger actually referenced the bill on his Twitter account days ago, writing, “Give me your thoughts on the water package, Harvey Milk Day, and the prison reform bill.”
It passed the Senate, 22-14, and the House, 46-28, along party-line votes with Democrats in the majority.
The California Family Council is urging Schwarzenegger to veto the bill and is warning it “would promote the controversial subject of sexual orientation in public school classrooms with children as young as five years of age.”
“It is expected that thousands of individuals will again seek the governor’s veto,” California Family Council director Ron Prentice said in a statement. “Commemorating Harvey Milk in public schools, primarily because of his sexual orientation, will go against the values of the majority of California’s parents.”
Individual schools and teachers could decide on their own whether to mark the day, although many certainly would. The text of the bill says “all public schools and educational institutions are encouraged to observe.” The bill says it would be appropriate to have “exercises remembering the life of Harvey Milk, recognizing his accomplishments, and familiarizing pupils with the contributions he made to this state.”
State Sen. Mark Leno, a Democrat and the bill’s sponsor, told The San Francisco Chronicle, “It should be kept in mind that he [Milk] literally gave his life so I and others can serve in public office and that every generation of LGBT Californians can pursue their every hope, dream and aspiration.”
But Randy Thomasson, an opponent of the bill and the president of SaveCalifornia.com, said Milk’s sexual escapades make him unfit to be pushed as a role model. For weeks, Thomasson’s press releases have quoted from “The Mayor of Castro Street,” a popular biography about Milk. Milk was 48 when he died but always had a desire for teen boys and men in their early 20s, the book says. He also advocated having multiple partners, it says.
“For the sake of impressionable children, the governor now has abundant reason to veto ‘Harvey Milk Day’ like he did last year,” Thomasson said in a statement. “Reputable biographies demonstrate that Milk was a sexual predator of teens, a homosexual sex addict who advocated polygamous relationships, and a public liar who justified his deceit. Harvey Milk was and is a terrible role model for kids, including kindergarteners who would be affected by this very bad bill.”
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press.