All posts by Alice Kessler

Governor Schwarzenegger and First Lady Shriver induct Harvey Milk into California Hall of Fame

They say history is written by the victors. Well, tonight we should all feel victorious as Harvey Milk is inducted into the California Hall of Fame.

I am thrilled to be going, not to watch history being made, but to watch a history finally start to be written that includes LGBT people, their lives, their stories and their achievements.

Harvey’s nephew Stuart Milk will attend the ceremony on behalf of his uncle, along with family members of Mayor George Moscone, Assemblymember Tom Ammiano and Senator Mark Leno. The Hall of Fame exhibit at the California Museum will be toured by scores of California students who will finally get in touch with a key piece of LGBT history. Also, one of the winners of this year’s California Dreamers Challenge, a scholarship for high school students, will be announced tonight who is a gay youth who was inspired by Harvey Milk.

EQCA worked hard to pass a bill in 2009 creating Harvey Milk Day in California to commemorate Milk’s legacy across California and in our schools, but we still need you to help make it happen. Leading up to the first official Harvey Milk Day on May 22, 2010, EQCA plans to work with local groups and educators to develop educational materials and plan appropriate commemorative events across the state (May 21 and 22 in San Francisco, May 22 in Los Angeles and May 23 in Palm Springs). Every child should grow up knowing they are valuable.

Watch out for our organizing kit, prepare to attend one of our events across the state, and start talking to people you know about why Milk’s legacy matters.

Last Friday was the 31st anniversary of Milk’s assassination, so I feel it especially poignant that Harvey should be so honored today. This has indeed been a remarkable year for Harvey.

Last month we honored Stuart Milk at our San Diego Equality Awards for his work around the world spreading Harvey’s message of hope, the hit film Milk won two Oscars, Harvey was posthumously awarded the Presidential of Freedom by President Obama, and the Governor signed the legislation authored by Sen. Mark Leno and sponsored by EQCA officially establishing Harvey Milk Day in our state.

California has always led the way forward, which is why it was so important for our state to take a stand and honor an LGBT hero with a day of special significance. Equality California pushed hard for this legislation, using all the tools at our disposal to make the case. I’d like to thank the nearly 40,000 EQCA members who sent emails to the Governor urging him to sign, the thousands who made phone calls or Tweeted, and the countless others who spread the word to their friends and family. This couldn’t have happened without your dedicated action!

I’d also like to thank our state legislature who passed Harvey Milk Day and 14 other pro-LGBT bills this year and Governor Schwarzenegger for signing into law the first official day ever recognizing an openly LGBT figure. EQCA knows from experience that supporting equality is a winning strategy for elected officials.

This victory is significant because it’s a message to future generations. This is when we stop erasing LGBT people and their achievements from the history books. Thanks to the support and advocacy of EQCA members California has among the most comprehensive protections for students and youth in the world. The anti-LGBT industry would like to take it all away. After all, LGBT minors make easy targets, and schools are the best places to go after them. They have no choice but to be there.

We need to be there for our community’s youth, which is why we need Harvey Milk Day, Safe Schools legislation, anti-bullying and nondiscrimination protections, and comprehensive curriculums which teach the value of all students, as well as the cost of violence.

In anti-marriage ballot campaigns across the country we’ve seen the other side exploit fears about their children becoming gay in order to trick voters into taking our rights away. We need to stand up and make it absolutely clear that there’s nothing wrong with children learning about LGBT people in school.

Alice Kessler is the Government Affairs Director for Equality California.  

Why YOU should care: Pro-LGBT citizen activists needed for new redistricting commission

(I wrote about this last week, but moving beyond partisanship, this is important.  I would argue that we should be looking for progressives to fill those non-partisan seats, and maybe even a centrist Republican for those seats. – promoted by Brian Leubitz)

Drawing our legislative districts used to be the job of elected officials, but now it’s up to YOU. That’s because of a voter-approved measure last year that called for the creation of a new Citizens Redistricting Commission.  Last Thursday, the State Auditor launched a new website for the effort:

It’s absolutely critical that pro-LGBT citizens apply for the commission to ensure that the new boundaries are drawn to empower our community–not gerrymandered to divide us.  

Thanks to your hard work and support, California has some of the strongest laws in the nation to protect LGBT people–including anti-discrimination laws, domestic partnership, and anti-bullying protections for our youth. However, if we don’t have a strong voice in the redistricting process, there’s a chance we’ll start losing ground. Those who oppose our equality are looking for ways to take over the legislature, build political support and roll back our hard-earned gains. We have to make sure that these laws stay in place.

In 2010, California will be starting the process of drawing new legislative district lines. Thanks in part to the advocacy of Equality California, for the first time ever in our state’s history, sexual orientation will be considered as a factor for how districts are drawn. This change increases the possibility of electing even more pro-equality legislators, provided that sexual orientation is truly taken into account. To make sure our needs aren’t ignored, we need pro-equality people to join the Redistricting Commission. Almost anyone who has voted in two of the last three statewide general elections can apply.

Stand up and use your voice! Starting December 15, you can apply to be on the Redistricting Commission. We must all take action to preserve and keep advancing our equality.

Alice Kessler is the Government Affairs Director for Equality California.