May 22 is Harvey Milk Day in California 5/22/12

May 22 is the third annual Harvey Milk Day in California.  Last May I wrote of Milk’s call for members of the gay community to be out and proud.  He felt the most important thing a gay or lesbian could do in the battle for equality was to be out.  Many have taken his advice, and few people can say today that they do not know a gay person, don’t work with a gay person, or have no gay relatives.  As more people have come out, prejudice and bigotry have been on a ever steepening decline in this country.  A lot has changed in the past year, and I think Milk would be proud.

Proposition 8 has been declared unconstitutional – again.  Still at the Federal Appeals Court, the proposition does not seem likely to survive the pending action.  While many expect the Supreme Court to eventually hear the case, others see little chance for review if the Appeals Court upholds it’s decision.  The ironically named “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy has been repealed, allowing people to serve their country in the military, without hiding or lying about their lives.  DOMA, the mis-named “Defense of Marriage Act” is in court, and looks soon to be declared unconstitutional as well.  The Department of Justice has determined key portions of DOMA are unconstitutional, and has told the Court it will not defend it.   Marriage equality is the law of the land in 8 states and the District of Columbia, and 12 more states have Civil Union or Domestic Partnership laws on the books.

Recently, Vice-President Biden expressed his support for marriage equality, and was followed a few days later by President Obama, who, in a ABC interview, said “same sex couples should be able to get married”.  Now that the President has publicly came out in support of marriage equality, we are beginning to see the ripples of that announcement across the country.  People who had up till now been silent on the matter are joining in on the chorus.  The NAACP recently voted to endorse marriage equality.  A respected Republican pollster has told members of the GOP that the public, across all political affiliations, have grown in their beliefs that marriage equality is something they support.  More than just generational, the growing acceptance of the LGBT community is evidenced across our society.  Politicians are being counseled that marriage equality is fast becoming an accepted idea in the minds of a majority of Americans, and that it is both a liberal and conservative idea whose time has come.  Fighting against equality is a losing strategy.

Harvey Milk was the first openly gay man elected to public office in California, and May 22 now marks the anniversary of his birth, and recognition of his importance in the history of equality in California.  June is traditionally Pride month across the United States, in remembrance of the Stonewall riots in New York City in 1969.  Pride parades are now common events in many cities across the country.  Even in the heart of conservative regions, the LGBT community has grown in visibility and outreach.  Fresno has had a LGBT community center for several years and is the home to one of the United States’ largest and oldest LGBT film festivals.  Hanford is in the process of organizing a community center of it’s own, local schools across the valley have Gay-Straight Alliances, and the Tulare-Kings PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbian and Gays) is one of the fastest growing and largest support groups in California.  Dining Out For Equality, Tuesday Evening Dining Group, Tulare County Outreach Potluck, the Rainbowlers, the Skittles softball team, and’s annual Family Fest (held at Mooney’s Grove every September), and others, all attest to the growing acceptance, and influence, of the LGBT community.

“My name is Harvey Milk, and I’m here to recruit you!” Harvey’s recruitment was a call to be out and proud, and to stand up for equality.  Thirty four years after his assassination, that call still echoes across the LGBT community, and every May 22 reminds us to learn about him and his contributions to California and the United States.

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