Fried Chicken with a Side of Homophobia June 8, 2014Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, LGBT, Right Wing, Uncategorized.
Tags: Chick-fil-A, gay marriage, gay rights, homophobia, human rights, lgbt, roger hollander
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Would you like your fried chicken with a side of homophobia? That’s what’s on offer at the Calgary International Airport, where notoriously anti-gay restaurant Chick-fil-A has just opened its first Canadian branch.
The fervently Christian American company donated nearly $2 million to anti-gay organizations in 2010, with a particular focus on lobbying against equal marriage. In 2012 its CEO Dan T. Cathy owned up to being ‘guilty as charged’. He openly condemned those who “have the audacity to define what marriage is about,” saying they were “inviting God’s judgment on our nation.”
Chick-fil-A has been beset with boycotts and protests ever since, but this hasn’t stopped it planning to expand into 108 new locations this year – including Canada.
Tell Chick-fil-A: we don’t want your bigoted views here. Please stay out of Canada. http://action.sumofus.org/a/canada-chick-fil-a/?akid=5589.1024433.toTN4K&rd=1&sub=fwd&t=2
The fast-food giant is one of the largest privately-held restaurant chains in the US, but its public image took a nose-dive in 2012 with revelations about its anti-gay stance. Since then, some new US branches have been prevented from opening, and one was removed from the University of Atlanta campus after opposition from students.
We can do the same in Canada. The Calgary branch opened quietly with almost no publicity. Reporters who did cover the launch were told not to ask customers about the restaurant’s anti-gay reputation. Chick-fil-A is clearly worried about a backlash. So let’s give it one!
Sign the petition to show Chick-fil-A that homophobia is not welcome in Canada.
Thank you for standing up for equal rights for everyone,
Angus, Hanna, Jon, and the rest of the team at SumOfUs
SumOfUs is a worldwide movement of people like you, working together to hold corporations accountable for their actions and forge a new, sustainable path for our global economy.
THE POPE IS A BIGOT December 16, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in LGBT, Religion.
Tags: bigotry, catholic church, Civil Rights, gay marriage, gay rights, Gay Voices News, lgbt, Pope benedict, Pope Benedict On Gay Marriage, Pope Benedict On Same-Sex Marriage, religious bigotry, The Pope, World Day Of Peace, World Day Of Peace 2013
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Pope Says Gay Marriage Poses A Threat To ‘Justice And Peace’ In World Day Of Peace 2013 Address
Posted: 12/14/2012 5:18 pm EST | Updated: 12/14/2012 8:08 pm EST
Pope Benedict XVI said this week that gay marriage poses a threat to “justice and peace.” The 85-year-old religious leader went on to suggest that same-sex marriage is “unnatural.”
According to the Associated Press, the head of the Roman Catholic Church kicked off the Christmas season on Friday with the traditional lighting of the tree in Vatican City’s St. Peter’s Square. On the same day, the Holy See released the Pope’s message for World Day of Peace 2013.
“There is…a need to acknowledge and promote the natural structure of marriage as the union of a man and a woman in the face of attempts to make it juridically equivalent to radically different types of union,” the Pope said, according to ANSA.
“Such attempts actually harm and help to destabilize marriage, obscuring its specific nature and its indispensable role in society. These principles are not truths of faith, nor are they simply a corollary of the right to religious freedom. They are inscribed in human nature itself, accessible to reason and thus common to all humanity,” he continued.
The Pope went on to suggest that support of gay marriage “constitutes an offense against the truth of the human person, with serious harm to justice and peace.”
According to AP, the Pope said abortion is also a threat to peace.
This is not the first time that Pope Benedict has vocally opposed same-sex marriage.
Earlier this year, the Associated Press reported that the religious leader had denounced gay marriage as being “insidious and dangerous.” Previously, he had called same-sex unions “a threat to humanity.”
Tags: anti-gay, benedict xvi, bigotry, catholic church, Civil Rights, DAVID BADASH, gay marriage, gay rights, human rights, Pope benedict, religious bigotry, roger hollander, roman catholic, same-sex marriage
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The special Prayer (Google translation) directs the faithful to pray for “those who were recently elected to legislate and govern.” France’s new President, Francois Hollande, has promised gay marriage will be the law of the land next year. The Catholic Church also is telling its believers to ask Jesus Christ to “grant us the courage to make hard choices and a better quality of life for all and vitality of our youth through strong families and loyal,” and specifically to ask Christ to ensure children “cease to be objects of desires and conflicts of adults to fully benefit from the love of a father and a mother,” a direct attack on same-sex couples adopting or raising children.
For children and young people that we help all people to discover their own path to progress towards happiness, they cease to be objects of desires and conflicts of adults to fully benefit from the love of a father and a mother.
The Advocate notes:
French bishops typically avoid entering political debates, but Reuters reports that spokesman Monsignor Bernard Podvin said the [Catholic] Church wanted to “raise the consciousness of public opinion about grave social choices.”
The prayer effort follows the Catholic Church’s outspokenness against recent plans to legalize same-sex marriage in England and Scotland. Pope Benedict XVI denounced the momentum for marriage equality in the United States during a visit of American bishops to the Vatican in March.
A Reuters report confirms the purpose of the Prayer.
In May, the Pope told Catholics they should become more political and ignore what the Bible teaches about politics. Speaking in Tuscany, the Pope urged the melding of Church and State, and told listeners to be “the engine of society in promoting peace through justice.”
The Catholic Church in France did not explain why only heterosexual couples should be allowed to raise children, nor does the Prayer direct the faithful to pray for the victims of pedophile priests.
In Riverdale, A Happy Long Life Free of Prejudice March 1, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Art, Literature and Culture, LGBT, Right Wing.
Tags: archie comics, bigotry, comic art, family values, gay liberation, gay marriage, lgbt, one million moms, openly gay, right wing, roger hollander, toys 'r us, zabby zimet
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www.commondreams.org, Feb. 29, 2012
by Abby Zimet
The right-wing American Family Association’s One Million Moms is freaking out because Archie comics now has not just an openly gay character, but that character getting married to his partner. Who’s black, for Jiminy Cricket’s sake. So they want Toys ‘R Us to get rid of those nasty comics right now. But Archie Comics’ CEO says he wishes Kevin Keller and his new husband all the best, thanks.
“We stand by Life with Archie #16. As I’ve said before, Riverdale is a safe, welcoming place that does not judge anyone. It’s an idealized version of America that will hopefully become reality someday.”
Gay Marriage: The 21 Century’s Most Successful Pro-Family Policy January 7, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Human Rights, LGBT.
Tags: conor friedersdorf, family, family values, gay marriage, human rights, lesbian marriage, lgbt, pro-family, rick santorum, right wing, roger hollander
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By Conor Friedersdorf
Jan 5 2012, 4:14 PM ET 147
There are an estimated 131,729 same-sex married couples in the United States, a Census Bureau figure that would be significantly higher if not for the fact that the vast majority of jurisdictions still prohibit gays and lesbians from marrying. Still, more than a quarter of a million gay people are married to one another. And it’s worth explicitly pondering what that means.
distinguished himself by talking about issues that most Republicans don’t want to touch — the problem of middle-class wage stagnation and the declining social mobility of the poor. Santorum has also framed these issues, correctly, in the context of the crisis in family life that social conservatives have been worrying about for years, making the essential point that absent fathers and broken homes play a greater role in middle America’s struggles than the supposed perfidies of the richest 1 percent. Somewhat disappointingly, Santorum’s specific proposals have focused on reviving manufacturing (and with it, in theory, the solid blue-collar paycheck) rather than targeting family policy directly. But one can doubt his cure and still appreciate his diagnosis.
SANTORUM: I think marriage has to be one thing for everybody. We can’t have 50 different marriage laws in this country, you have to have one marriage law…
TODD: What would you do with same-sex couples who got married? Would you make them get divorced?
SANTORUM: Well, their marriage would be invalid. I think if the Constitution says “marriage is this,” then people whose marriage is not consistent with the Constitution… I’d love to think there’s another way of doing it.
Freedom Tea Party Style August 16, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties.
Tags: abortion, atheism, censorship, first amendment, freedom, gay marriage, religion, roger hollander, tea party
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What else do these freedom lovers want the government to prohibit?
Kurt Vonnegut Jr. and other authors
Feel free to add to the list.
Whose Fault Is It? June 25, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, LGBT.
Tags: civil liberties, equal rights, gay marriage, gay rights, lgbt, roger hollander, same-sex marriage
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Tags: Brazil, catholic bigotry, catholic church, civil unions, gay marriage, gay rights, gay rights revolution, homophobia, human rights, katie soltis, Latin America, lgbt, same sex civil union, same-sex marriage
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The Brazilian Supreme Court’s recognition of same-sex unions in early May marks the latest victory for gay rights in Latin America. The Court’s ruling grants equal legal rights to same-sex civil unions as those enjoyed by married heterosexuals, including retirement benefits, joint tax declarations, inheritance rights, and child adoption.While the Supreme Court did not go so far as to legalize gay marriage, gay rights groups such as Rio de Janeiro’s Rainbow Group have nevertheless praised the decision as an “historic achievement.”1 The decision passed 10-0 with one abstention, but the justice who abstained had previously spoken in favor of same-sex unions.
An Unlikely Victory
As the world’s largest Roman Catholic country, Brazil was an unlikely venue for such a promising gay rights victory. The Roman Catholic Church has actively fought proposals for same-sex unions in Brazil, arguing that the Brazilian Constitution defines a “family entity” as “a stable union between a man and a woman.”2 The Catholic Church responded to the recent ruling with outrage. As Archbishop Anuar Battisti put it, the Supreme Court’s decision marked a “frontal assault” on the sanctity of the family.3
The Catholic Church is losing its power in Brazil, which helped pave the way for the Supreme Court’s recent decision in favor of homosexuals. Nevertheless, homophobia retains a tenacious grip on Brazilian society. Despite the fact that the nation boasts the world’s largest gay pride parade, the LGBT movement has been unable to achieve fundamental progress and quell discrimination at a societal level. For instance, Marcelo Cerqueira, the head of the Gay Group of Bahia, claims the country is “number one when it comes to assassination, discrimination and violence against homosexuals.”4 Additionally, in a disconcerting report, the Gay Group of Bahia found that 260 Brazilian gay people were murdered in 2010, exemplifying the level of hostility towards homosexuals.5 Because of this discriminating environment, gay rights activists traditionally have had little success in Brazil. Most notably, Congress disregarded proposals for gay rights legislation for nearly ten years.
The Supreme Court’s recent ruling was therefore a major turning point after a history of protracted, unsuccessful struggles. The judicial decision was made in response to two lawsuits, one of which was filed by Rio de Janeiro Governor Sérgio Cabral and the other by the Office of the Attorney General. While Congress repeatedly ignored requests for equal rights for gay Brazilian citizens, the Supreme Court argued that “Those who opt for a homosexual union cannot be treated less than equally as citizens.”6 In this way, by appealing to the judicial system, the LGBT movement was able to achieve success despite deep-seated hostility throughout Brazilian society and in other branches of the government.
Latin America’s Gay Rights Revolution
Professor Omar Encarnación of Bard College calls the recent string of gay rights legislation in Latin America a “gay rights revolution.”7 Brazil’s ruling came on the heels of several other noteworthy gay rights victories in Latin America, such as Uruguay’s legalization of same-sex civil unions in 2007. Shortly thereafter, in 2010, Argentina became the first Latin American nation and eighth nation worldwide to legalize gay marriage. Other landmark decisions in the past few years include Uruguay’s decision to allow all men and women, regardless of sexual orientation, to serve in the military and Mexico City’s legalization of same-sex civil unions.
The recent surge in gay rights victories throughout Latin America is altogether stunning, considering the region has generally been regarded as very homophobic. The Catholic Church has traditionally been a formidable enemy to gay rights movements in the region, but the secularization of much of Latin America has led to the impressive expansion of opportunities for gay rights movements.
Yet this success of gay rights movements throughout Latin America cannot be attributed solely to the declining importance of religion in the region. It is equally important, if not more so, to recognize the vital roles played by gay activist groups and the dynamic strategies these groups employ. For instance, gay rights groups in Brazil were able to reverse legislation banning gays from the workplace by forming partnerships with progressive businesses. In recent years, the use of social media has provided much of the gay movement’s momentum by enhancing activist groups’ ability to communicate and spread information. For instance, as Javier Corrales notes, by simply posting a video of a hate crime in San Juan or of a gay wedding in Argentina on YouTube, gay rights groups have been able to reach thousands of people and garner support.8 These innovative strategies have brought success despite a notably hostile environment towards homosexuals.
Through a comparison with the United States, we can see how remarkable the success of gay rights in Latin America has been. Latin America is marked by a much more homophobic environment than the U.S., according to a survey conducted by Mitchell Seligson and Daniel Moreno Morales.9 However, although the U.S. has lower levels of societal discrimination towards gays, it is hard to imagine that the United States would completely legalize same-sex civil unions or gay marriage on a national scale. The fact that this legalization occurred in several Latin American nations, despite the formidable opposition there, makes these recent rulings even more significant.
Furthermore, the recent victories for gay rights exemplify the considerable progress toward the region’s consolidation of democracy. The three Latin American countries that have now legalized same-sex unions—Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay—were each ruled by repressive military regimes just over two decades ago. Even Colombia, which is one of the region’s worst human rights violators, granted same-sex unions equal rights regarding social security benefits and inheritance rights in 2007. The fact that gay liberation movements have been successful in these unlikely places is a testament to how far these countries have progressed in recent years.
References for this article can be found here
The problem with gay men today April 23, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, LGBT.
Tags: act up, AIDS, ed koch, gay, gay community, gay marriage, gay rights, glbt, larry kramer, normal heart, roger hollander, safe-sex, same-sex marriage, thomas rogers
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Saturday, Apr 23, 2011 18:01 ET
Outspoken activist Larry Kramer wants to know why this generation is so apathetic while he’s still so angry
To say Larry Kramer is polarizing is like saying Rush Limbaugh is a little bit conservative. The Pulitzer-nominated playwright, screenwriter, author and activist has been one of the most controversial figures in American gay life over the past 30 years. He first incensed gay men in 1978 with “Faggots,” his eerily prescient novel that critiqued the gay community’s culture of promiscuity. And as a co-founder of Gay Men’s Health Crisis and the founder of ACT UP, the influential AIDS activist group, he became one of the most strident and passionate voices in the early years of the AIDS crisis. While making countless enemies, most notably New York Mayor Ed Koch, he was one of the people most responsible for drawing attention to the disease.
Over the last decade and a half, as AIDS has transitioned from a death sentence to largely treatable and gay culture has transitioned from the margins to somewhere closer to the mainstream, Kramer has remained (almost) as angry as ever. In 2005, he published “The Tragedy of Today’s Gays,” a transcript of a speech in which he attacked the younger generation of gay men for their apathy over gay causes and accused them of condemning their “predecessors to nonexistence.”
Next week, Kramer’s politics will get another turn in the spotlight when his 1985 play, “The Normal Heart,” opens on Broadway for the very first time. The largely autobiographical story centers on a group of gay men in the early days of the AIDS epidemic and stars Joe Mantello as Ned Weeks, a Kramer-esque activist desperately trying to draw attention to the plague, alongside a cast that includes Ellen Barkin, Lee Pace and “The Big Bang Theory’s” Jim Parsons. The play remains a highly effective, moving work that brutally conveys the desperation and terror that accompanied the emergence of AIDS. But nowadays, it also doubles as a history lesson for people who grew up long after the first wave — a role that Kramer sees as vital.
Salon spoke to Larry Kramer in his New York apartment about the importance of “The Normal Heart,” iPhone’s Grindr app and the problem with young gay men.
I saw a preview of the play last night with a friend. I think many of the ideas in the play will seem exotic and a little dated to a lot of young gay men.
Like the idea of promiscuity as a political statement and that it would be treasonous or controversial for gay men to tell other gay men not to have sex, or to have sex with a condom. What do you think young people should take away from the play?
It’s our history. We’re gay. This was part of our history. This was the most horrible thing the gay population ever lived through. And yet it also represented — later on, with ACT UP, and the getting of AIDS drugs — the most spectacular achievement the gay population ever had. We gays did that.
I don’t know why so many gay men don’t want to know their history. I don’t know why they turned their back on the older generation as if they don’t want to have anything to do with them. I would like us to get beyond that.
But do you really think that lack of interest in history is particular to this generation?
You tell me.
Well, I’m 27, and I know that my formative images of gay life had nothing to do with AIDS. Ellen came out of the closet when I was in junior high and “Will & Grace” made gayness seem like a consumer identity more than anything else. Gayness wasn’t really linked with sickness is my mind, and so those early AIDS battles, I think, seem very alien to a lot of young people’s experiences.
I don’t know. I could understand what you’re saying. Sometimes when I go to schools, kids say that they’re taught to be non-confrontational or non-participatory now, almost like it’s not cool to have opinions and express them, which is sad. I hope we’re coming out of all that.
You seem to have some anger at the young gay population.
No more than the old gay population. I’m an across-the-board person. We have responsibilities toward each other, as family, as brothers and sisters. We’re all in this together. ACT UP was the most moving experience I ever had in my life. We were sick and dying and that gave everything a special glow of importance, but it showed us what we were capable of if we did do it.
You’ve had a famously acrimonious relationship with former New York Mayor Ed Koch, whose inaction about AIDS you blame for the death of many of its victims. Does he still live in this building?
Fortunately, in the other elevator bank so we don’t have to see each other. We pass occasionally, both of us making a big point of ignoring one another. As you may know, I once ran into him where we get our mail. He bent to pet my dog and I yanked her away and said something like: “No, Molly, that’s the man who murdered all of Daddy’s friends.” When I first saw him in the lobby, I screamed at him: “We don’t want you here!” as loud as I could across the length of the lobby and I was told by my landlord that we would be evicted if I did it again. So I didn’t. I like my apartment too much.
Coming out of the play last night, my friend and I both felt a perverse nostalgia for those early AIDS years we never lived through. They were obviously utterly terrifying and filled with sadness, but there’s also something appealing about having this galvanizing issue to unite gay men. We don’t have that as much now.
There are these issues now. It’s just that you don’t think of them as galvanizing, mainly because they’re not so life and death. I cite marriage, although I’m sort of fed up with how long it’s taken and I think we’ve gone about it the wrong way. I’m 76, and my partner is 64. I’ll obviously die before he does, and the way the laws are written it’s very hard to leave him anything of substance compared to what I have to leave. It all goes to taxes because we’re not legally federally married and that’s not fair, that’s just not fair. You don’t care about it at your age, but I care about it at mine, and there are a lot of older gays who should care about it as well. That should be a galvanizing issue. Anything that keeps us from being unequal should be galvanizing. I want what they have. I do. And everybody should. But again, people don’t think that way.
What has frustrated you about the move toward gay marriage in the country?
Just that it’s taken forever. I don’t think we should have taken the state by state approach because it just makes it go on, and then you have to re-sue and defend. Things need to go to the Supreme Court as fast as possible. There were ways it could have gone to the Supreme Court a lot earlier. If we lose at the Supreme Court, which everyone was afraid of, you just come back again. These [state] marriage we have don’t amount to anything. They’re feel-good marriages. They make relationships stronger and all that, but they don’t amount to a hill of beans in terms of anything legal or financial. You still need to pay federal taxes and you don’t get any of these benefits the government pays you if you’re heterosexually married.
The play suggests that one of the reasons there was so much meaningless sex in the gay community in the 1980s was because there was no gay marriage. Now that state marriages exist, do you think there’s been a cultural shift away from that meaningless sexual culture?
I think there’s still an awful lot of meaningless sex going on and the infection figures are still much too high and going up, so obviously there’s still too much careless sex going on. I don’t want to come out of this sounding like this prude. I never said don’t have sex, but what’s so hard about using rubbers? It doesn’t seem to require much intelligence to figure that one out. I don’t have much sympathy for people who seroconvert now, who know about AIDS. I don’t care if you were on drugs or whether you were out of it in the heat of passion or whatever. Your cock is a lethal instrument. It can murder people.
Are you familiar with Grindr, the iPhone gay sex app?
It’s an iPhone application that shows you how far away other gay men are, so you can have sex with them.
No. I’d be happy to use it now if I thought it would do anything. I get horny just like anybody else, and David [Webster, Kramer’s partner] and I have been together a long time, so our relationship is now something else. I joined Daddyhunt or Manhunt and all those things, and posted my pictures, and filled out my questionnaire. And I got absolutely no response from anyone and it led me to wonder: What do older men do? It’s very sad that suddenly there’s no way to partake in all of this.
The interesting thing about Grindr is that it creates this map of your surroundings that’s really catered to gay men. You can log into it in your apartment and suddenly there are 100 people around you looking to hook up.
It sounds wonderful. I’m not against sex, I’m against being irresponsible. We have bodies and we should enjoy them, but we shouldn’t treat each other as things. That’s what it came to be in the [1970s] height of Fire Island [the gay party mecca], and I guess you could say the same about this Grindr thing.
It seems like the intense over-the-top party culture that Fire Island embodies — the kitschy nightclubs and circuit parties — are in the process of disappearing. I honestly don’t think they appeal to young gay people in the way they used to.
They were very drug-induced escapes. You really had to power your body for an enormous number of hours with an enormous amount of help. Someone said something interesting recently to me about why people did so many drugs in the 1970s: “It’s because it made it less painful, less difficult, less arduous, the life we led outside of the gay world.” Fire Island itself was and still is enormously competitive. You’re bartering with your body. Maybe people are more content with the sex online. I don’t know. I don’t see the gay world anymore. I don’t see it visually on the streets like we used to see it. I don’t know where it is. Do you?
Well, I think it’s less visible, and a lot of that has to do with the Internet. Gay ghettos are emptying out. There are fewer gay bars than there were before. And I think young gay people are more comfortable inhabiting the straight world and straight environments. I also think people have more straight friends.
Well, I’m glad I’m not your age anymore. Being gay was so much fun. And there were so many of us to have fun with — just being part of a very, very visible world where you saw people all the time and you socialized. I don’t see it now. I know they’re here. I know they’re in this building, but I don’t even know them as gay, even though I know they’re gay.
I am a gay person before I’m anything else. I’m a gay person before I’m a white person, before I’m a Jew, before I’m a writer, before I’m American, anything. That is my most identifying characteristic and I don’t find many people who would say that. The polls say the same thing: People do not identify themselves as gay. And that’s too bad. In fact, it’s tragic. It will prevent us from ever having what we deserve, I believe.
- Thomas Rogers is Salon’s Deputy Arts Editor.
California To Observe First Harvey Milk Day May 21, 2010Posted by rogerhollander in California, Civil Liberties, Human Rights, LGBT.
Tags: California, Civil Rights, dan white, gay marriage, gay rights, george moscone, harvey milk, harvey milk day, lgbt, lisa leff, openly gay, roger hollander, same sex, san francisco politics, schwarzeneger, sean penn
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Lisa Leff, www.huffingtonpost.com, May 21, 2010
Presidential Medal of Freedom? Got that. A place in the California Hall of Fame and Sean Penn playing you on-screen? Those, too.
Now, Harvey Milk has a holiday of sorts to call his own. California will observe its first day of “special significance” Saturday honoring the slain gay rights leader on what would have been his 80th birthday.
It took two legislative tries and the 2008 movie “Milk” to help persuade Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to sign a bill last fall establishing May 22 as Harvey Milk Day. Memorial events are planned in 20 other states.
The California measure does not close state offices as an official holiday would but does encourages public schools to conduct activities commemorating the first openly gay man elected to public office in a major U.S. city.
Milk was a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1978 when he and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated at City Hall by former supervisor Dan White.
Milk preached a message of pride that made him an inspiration to generations of gay rights activists, and he is credited with helping defeat a ballot initiative that would have prevented gay teachers from working in public schools.
The range of activities planned in his memory – concerts, voter canvassing to repeal California’s gay marriage ban, and students at some schools handing out malted milk balls and Milk Duds – speaks to Milk’s singularly iconic place in gay rights history and the public’s continued polarization on gay rights issues.
The day is shaping up to be even grander than its supporters anticipated. Demonstrations in St. Louis, Savannah, Ga., Fulton, Miss., and other cities are aimed at putting pressure on Congress to repeal the ban on gays serving openly in the military and to pass a law protecting gays and transgender people from job discrimination.
“The creation of the first official day of recognition for any openly gay person in the history of this country has really touched people, many of whom have been closeted in life or faced rejection or government discrimination which continues to this day,” said Geoffrey Kors, executive director of the gay rights group Equality California.
In Milk’s adopted home state, however, few public schools are marking the occasion, despite the language in the California bill that created it.
Having May 22 fall on a Saturday this year may have muted the celebrations. But a conservative group’s call for parents to pull their children out of class if any Harvey Milk activities were planned probably had an effect as well, said Carolyn Laub, executive director of the Gay-Straight Alliance Network, a San Francisco group that trains students to be gay rights advocates.
“We have heard from students and teachers who are facing resistance from school administrators who do not want to acknowledge this day,” Laub said.
Some students decided to sponsor movie screenings and other activities at lunch or after school in the absence of school-wide events, she said.
Zac Toomay, a 17-year-old junior at Arroyo Grande High School in central California, said he was surprised when his principal agreed to encourage history and English teachers to mention Milk during classes Friday.
“I encountered some apprehension, not because the principal or teachers are uncomfortable with it, but because they didn’t want to have too much of a controversy within the classroom,” Toomay said. “I said, ‘We have controversy in the classroom all the time, and if we are going to avoid that one, we are going to have to avoid all of them.'”
At in San Juan Hills High School in Orange County, Calif., where scheduled state achievement tests prevented classroom activities, 15-year-old Benji Delgadillo and other members of the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance Club planned to sell Harvey milkshakes and to hand out fliers after school explaining who Milk was.
Besides Delgadillo, San Juan Hills only has one or two other openly gay or transgender students, he said. The club of about 25 members nevertheless persuaded the principal to change the dress code for dances so girls could wear suits and to cancel the annual “Battle of the Sexes” pep rally after some students said it was offensive to gender non-conforming students.
“Harvey Milk is a civil rights icon who sparked a movement that today is really helping to address the issues of harassment that lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer or gender non-conforming students face in our school and our community,” Delgadillo said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was scheduled to appear at a fundraiser Friday night tied to Harvey Milk Day and benefiting Equality California’s political action committee, which hopes to qualify a ballot initiative in 2012 that would repeal California’s ban on same-sex marriage.
Events planned for Saturday include the premiere of a musical based on Milk’s life written by Dustin Lance Black, the screenwriter who won an Oscar for “Milk” the movie, and performed by the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles. The chorus plans to take the piece into high schools next year as part of project to prevent anti-gay bullying.
Stuart Milk, Harvey Milk’s 49-year-old nephew and one of the guardians of his legacy, thinks his uncle would be thrilled by the various tributes, but he also wants his day to be more about uniting all marginalized minorities than merely about gay rights or the accomplishments of one man.
“It’s still a hard concept for people to get,” Stuart Milk said. “This isn’t about having a Harvey Milk curriculum in every school. It’s an opportunity to talk about what discrimination means and why it’s important for everyone to feel included.”