In the midst of racing through hundreds of bills with a September 30th signing deadline, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed California bill AB 2567. This bill was sponsored by Assemblymember Mark Leno, and was originally introduced on February 22nd. It passed the California Assembly with a vote of 45 – 22 and passed the senate with a vote of 22-13.
Although he was uncharacteristically brief in his veto messages, due to time constraints, Schwarzenegger had time to comment on this particular bill:
… contributions should continue to be recognized at the local level by those who were most impacted by his contributions.
To me this is akin to suggesting we celebrate the significance of Martin Luther King’s life only if we are part of the African American community, or teach our children about the Ghandi’s contributions only if we are of Indian descent. Many historical figures with whom we cannot personally relate have made contributions worthy of being honored. I have never been a migrant worker, but I believe it is important for the state to recognize the life and achievements of Cesar Chavez.
Harvey Milk was a pacifist, a humanitarian and a champion of civil rights. He dedicated his life, and paid with it, fighting for social equality. According to Time Magazine, Harvey Milk was one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century in the “Leaders and Revolutionaries” category. Don’t be confused by the right wing rhetoric around this issue. Declaring May 22nd Harvey Milk Day was not about creating a “gay day” in public schools. Schools would not have been required to even mention the day. Here is the definition of what Harvey Milk Day would have meant:
SUMMARY : Designates May 22 of each year as Harvey Milk Day, a day of special significance. Specifically, this bill:
1. Makes Legislative findings and declarations regarding the life, careers, contributions and death of Harvey Milk.
2. Adds May 22 of each year a Harvey Milk Day to the list of days having special significance.
3. Encourages [not requires] all public schools and educational institutions to observe this day and conduct exercises remembering the life of Harvey Milk and recognizing his accomplishments and the contributions he made to this state.
4. Requires the Governor to annually proclaim May 22 as Harvey Milk Day.
Other “Days of Significance” in California include Day of the Teacher (yay!), John Muir Day and California Poppy Day. So… Harvey Milk’s contributions to the state of California are restricted to San Francisco where he served as a City Supervisor and are not as great as those of the California Poppy. Do I have that right Governor Schwarzenegger?