Activists Want OC Recognition of Harvey Milk Holiday

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More than a dozen gay rights activists today called on the Orange County Supervisors to adopt a proclamation for Harvey Milk Day.

Although the state began recognizing a legal state holiday — May 22 — in honor of Milk in 2009, the county has not. And the activists say the supervisors are avoiding the issue.

Milk — who served as a city supervisor in San Francisco in the 1970s — was the nation’s first openly gay elected official. He was killed in 1978 by Dan White, a fellow supervisor.

After a string of supporters spoke during Tuesday’s public comment period, County Supervisors’ Chairman Bill Campbell told them that supervisors could only listen because nothing was on the agenda.

The activists said there is no good reason why a proposed proclamation shouldn’t be on the agenda. They have been operating a phone bank since April leaving after-hours messages on all county supervisors’ office phones, urging them to put it on the agenda.

“Interested persons began contacting their Supervisors during the latter half of April with no luck finding a sponsor,” read a news release by the activists sent out Monday. “The Chair of the Board, Bill Campbell, was specifically approached with a sample proclamation and information on the historic importance of Harvey Milk.”

Campbell, who went into closed session immediately after the public speakers, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Audrey Prosser, one of the activists, Orange County has come a long way since the first openly gay event in the early 1970s. Prosser remembers that police charged the crowd at that event when people of the same sex started kissing.

While much has changed, Prosser said she’s disappointed in supervisors for avoiding a proclamation.

But she and other activists said they would be stepping up their presence, and educational efforts, in the next week. They want to have supervisors support their cause before the Harvey Milk event in Santa Ana next week.

“It’s about education,” Prosser said. “It was education back then, and still is. You fear the unknown.”

Activists said they would now redouble their efforts and keep working phone banks to make sure that county supervisors have enough time to put a proclamation on their agenda for the next meeting, which is on May 17.

“We’ll keep coming back until they feel safe enough to make a decision,” said organizer Minerva Figueroa.

Activists said with or without a proclamation from county supervisors, the Harvey Milk Day celebration will go on, Friday evening, May 20th, at French Plaza in downtown Santa Ana.

Twenty four organizations and businesses are sponsoring the event that includes a pre-show at 5 p.m., main show at 7 p.m., and dancing and a birthday cake at 8:30 p.m.



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