May 22 Harvey Milk Day in California


In 1977, Harvey Milk was the first openly gay man to win political office in California. Elected, after two earlier failed attempts, to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, he was assassinated in 1978, along with Mayor George Moscone, by former Board member Dan White.

In 2009, the California legislature passed SB 572. Signed into law by Governor Arnold Schwarzenneger, the bill designates May 22, Milk’s birthday, as a “day of special significance” for public schools.

“Harvey Milk gave his life for what he believed in, and with that courage and sacrifice he gave hope to an entire generation of gay and lesbian people whose basic humanity and freedom had been denied and dishonored.

“There’s no requirement of any school to do anything. We hope that Harvey Milk Day would provide for an opportunity for teachers to share with their students why the governor has declared May 22 to be a special day…. We believe that with this additional information, LGBT students would have ever more reason to be proud of who they are and that straight students would understand this has been a civil rights battle, and thereby raising their consciousness as well, likely decreasing the amount of violence and bullying that goes on.” – Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco)  –  California Teacher’s Association.

Harvey Milk, in a recording made shortly before his assassination, said “I ask for the movement to continue, for the movement to grow, because last week I got a phone call from Altoona, Pennsylvania, and my election gave somebody else, one more person, hope. And after all, that’s what this is all about. It’s not about personal gain, not about ego, not about power — it’s about giving those young people out there in the Altoona, Pennsylvanias, hope. You gotta give them hope.

Milk’s legacy reaches down to us today, even here in Tulare County. Last year’s opening of The Source LGBT+ Center, in a region that shines a bright red on the political map, is a sign of Milk’s influence decades after his death. Last Saturday saw the first Pride Prom in Tulare County, welcoming LGBT+ students to a night of dancing, fun, and entertainment. Fifty-five students attended, and expressed their excitement and appreciation for an event that not only allowed them to be themselves, but reminded them that, as Milk said, “All young people, regardless of sexual orientation or identity, deserve a safe and supportive environment in which to achieve their full potential.”

On June 24, Visalia and Tulare County will see another Pride event, when The Source LGBT+ Center holds what promises to be the largest and most exciting one yet. In the tradition of Family Fest and Pride in the Park, Visalia Pride will continue and build on the history of the LGBT+ community. Details can be found at

Harvey Milk‘s influence can still be felt in Visalia.  PFLAG Tulare-Kings Counties, Visalia Pride Lions, The Source LGBT+ Center, LGBT bowling leagues, the Skittles softball team, the Tuesday Evening Dining Group, and others all attest to the progress made in the years since Milk’s death.

The recent flurry of anti-LGBT legislation being introduced in state legislatures across the United States demonstrates that Milk’s struggle is not over.  Changes in the Federal government being brought about by the Trump administration portend more obstacles to overcome. With radical right wing appointments to Federal courts, including the Supreme Court, the battle for the civil rights of the LGBT community will continue. The spirit of Harvey Milk will be with all those who stand up and fight for what is right and just.

Happy Birthday, Harvey Milk. You continue to give them hope.

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