Tears For Queers

How Dustin Lance Black Changed This Republican California Senator’s Mind on Harvey Milk Day


As California’s State Senate OK’d making Harvey Milk Day official (the bill now heads to the Assembly), it was no surprise all 23 Democrats voted for it. But what’s this about Republican Sen. Abel Maldonado changing his mind?

Voting no only last year, Maldonado crossed party lines yesterday — and already knows the heat is coming from conservatives. Why’d he do it? Because he decided to become a responsible elected official and actually read the piece of legislation he was voting on. And now he’s sorry he didn’t do it last year.

Turns out, establishing Harvey Milk Day won’t bring Armageddon! Sacramento Bee:

He said he is telling those who object that he read the Milk bill closely, as he did this time, rather than listening to groups complaining about what it supposedly would do. “There’s nothing in this bill that mandates teaching that Harvey Milk was a homosexual,” Maldonado said. “For folks calling this “Gay Day,” I say read the bill.”

Maldonado said he erred last year in believing that the bill would force, instead of “encouraging,” the teaching of Milk’s life and leaving it up to local schools to decide.

But Maldonado also credited recent testimony before the Senate Education Committee recently with changing his mind. That testimony happened to come from a young gay man, Dustin Lance Black, who won an Academy Award this year for his screenplay of the movie “Milk.”

Maldonado said he empathized with Black, as he described growing up in a Mormon family in Texas and California and feeling emotional turmoil and isolation because of anti-gay sentiment. “I rarely get swayed by testimony,” Maldonado said.

When Black said that Harvey Milk was someone he looked up to, Maldonado said, he took it to heart.