Leno: State Harvey Milk Day Entirely in Schwarzenegger's Hands

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Learning about John Muir has hardly made the state's schoolchildren conservationists ... so how could curriculum on Harvey Milk turn them gay?
Milk, on the whole, tends to suffer when left out -- but Sen. Mark Leno feels a year of exposure is just what his Milk bill needed.

The San Francisco State Senator has re-introduced a bill he authored last year that would designate May 22 as a "day of special significance" for slain city Supervisor Harvey Milk. That bill passed -- on party lines -- last year before being vetoed on Sept. 30 by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

"I make a habit of not speaking for other elected officials, but I do know there was quite a bit of lobbying for the governor's signature for and against that bill," Leno told SF Weekly. "In his veto message, [Schwarzenegger] said he appreciated the intent of the legislation but he believed Harvey';s work should be continued on the local level where it had its impact. Well, a lot has happened in the past five months -- and, because of Sean Penn's successful portrayal of Harvey there's no one who can only say Harvey's life and work have had only a local impact."

Leno re-introduced his bill to the media this morning at Tosca -- Penn's favorite bar --  with Mr. Best Actor beside him.That got the media's attention, but Leno is banking it will also get the governor's.

"If there's one thing Arnold Schwarzenegger understands, it's box office," Leno said. "And, thanks to the producers, directors, and stars of Milk, Harvey now has box office."

If Senate Bill 572 -- co-written by the entire LGBT caucus -- passes, it would establish Milk's birthday as a "special day of significance." This wouldn't cost the state money and wouldn't entail anything beyond the governor declaring May 22 to be Harvey Milk Day in California. Other "days of significance," Leno points out, include John Muir Day, Day of the Teacher, and California Poppy Day. Since Milk-related curricula would be "encouraged" in schools, Leno noted that he is "counting on" foes of his bill employing the "They'll be teaching kids about homosexuals -- in the classroom!" argument that helped to successfully pass Proposition 8.

The bill will be heard in committee in April and could get to the senate floor by mid-May. Leno predicts it will work its way through the Assembly and be sitting on the governor's desk by late August.

Perhaps Leno could have stolen a line from Schwarzenegger: "I'll be back."

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