Know what the sad opponents to California’s proposed Harvey Milk Day are arguing? That if Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger makes May 22 a statewide holiday for a civil rights hero, all of California’s school children will be taught about dudes screwing other dudes in the butt. And all sorts of equally ridiculous things.
We have to laugh. Laugh, because once again we’re dealing with the tired debate about whether gay rights (a “special interest”) are human rights (something we can all get behind), but more so because once again we’re dealing with a group of people trafficking in fearmongering, trying to convince parents (read: voters) they need to call up Schwarzenegger and demand he not impose this fag on their kids. For Harvey Milk Day will force teachers to tell students all about some homo with a megaphone. (For the record, there are no requirements for schools on such days of recognition, although we’re advocates of California’s kids learning about Milk in the classroom.)
So far, though, it’s working. Schwarzenegger’s office has received 100,000 phone calls about the holiday, most of them against it, reports the NYT.
But it appears inside the governor’s mansion, Schwarzenegger is coming around from last year’s position, where he vetoed an earlier Harvey Milk Day bill. Thanks to the film Milk, Harvey’s civil rights champion status has been on the rise. Undoubtedly it helped convince Schwarzenegger that Milk deserved a place in the California Hall of Fame.
And it’s not like Schwarzenegger runs much political risk if he creates the holiday and signs SB 572 into law; he’s not running for another term. And the state’s legislators, who approved the holiday in both chambers, obviously didn’t respond to threats from hate groups like SaveCalifornia.com, which imagines Harvey Milk Day will lead to mock gay weddings performed by kids from Sacramento to San Diego.
There are only three days of recognition in California: one for Sierra Club founder John Muir, another for teachers, and a third for the California poppy. Clearly, it’s not a recognition that the state’s governors have over-saturated with endless special honors, so we appreciate Schwarzenegger’s careful consideration of State Sen. Mark Leno’s bill, and the will of the people.
But civil rights heroes are not made every day. Even in the Facebook era. So when we have a chance to honor one of the state’s most outstanding proponents of the equal treatment for gay and lesbian Americans, we should be jumping at the chance, not backing away from it.