My fifth annual Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast opening remarksBottom Highlights, Conversations with the Mayor of Hillcrest Thursday, May 30th, 2013
Commentary: Conversations with Nicole
Good morning San Diego. Buenos dias me compadres y comadres. Let us take this time to pause and remember our fellow Americans who recently lost their lives in Oklahoma … thank you.
You know, to look over this massive hotel ballroom this morning is indeed something in itself … as in the 1960s and early 1970s hotels in San Diego refused to host homosexual events and today this homosexual hosted event has drawn more than 1,200 San Diegans from all walks of life.
In 1974, the City of San Diego refused to issue a Gay Pride march permit and we still marched without it. Next year, it will be our Pride’s 40th anniversary and the parade is now our city’s biggest parade of the year.
In the 1970s, homosexuals were not allowed to be issued liquor licenses. Our bars were raided, patrons arrested on trumped up charges and San Diego Police and Sheriff’s officers constantly harassed and beat up homosexuals. This morning, Sheriff Gore has joined us for breakfast and there are dozens of openly gay and lesbian police officers.
In the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s gay bars and events were officially off limits to all military personnel in San Diego. This morning, this breakfast hosted an official Navy color guard.
In the 1970s and early ‘80s many businesses and people were not happy with gays and lesbians moving into Hillcrest. Now, we have one of the largest GLBT community centers in the nation; a fabulous huge Rainbow Flag; and we dedicated the first Harvey Milk Street in the nation and Hillcrest was voted one of the best neighborhoods in America.
Until 1976, homosexuals under California law could be and were sent to state mental hospitals and given electric shock treatment, just by the signature of their parents or a judge. Today, the speaker of the California state Assembly is a gay Latino man and the majority leader is our very own Toni Atkins.
And after centuries of discrimination, now, openly gay Boy Scouts will be allowed to become members. But we will continue the fight until gay parents and adults are allowed to be Scout masters.
In 1977, Harvey Milk was elected the first openly gay official in California. He became our leader in the fight against the homophobia and hate of Anita Bryant and John Briggs. But he wasn’t just a gay rights advocate; he stood up for seniors, equality for women, the small business owner and became friends with Cesar Chavez; and Harvey stood up against the horrific treatment of California farm workers who were mostly of Mexican and Filipino descent; and in the 1970s Cesar Chavez became the first major civil rights leader to support gay rights and spoke at a national gay and lesbian march on Washington.
I truly believe if Harvey Milk were alive today he would stand up for Planned Parenthood. Harvey would speak out for true immigration reform that includes gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender people.
I believe that Harvey would speak out about the more than three million children who go to bed hungry every night … about homelessness in America … and Harvey, who was proud to be a Navy veteran, would have spoken out about the 22 veterans a day who commit suicide and our nation’s treatment of all our veterans.
And at this time would all the veterans in the room please stand up so we can acknowledge your great service to our nation.
And yes, most certainly Harvey Milk would have been on the forefront of marriage equality and he would have spoken up for Roger Gorley of Kansas who last month was arrested at a hospital for just trying to see his life partner of five years. His partner’s family had Roger arrested, handcuffed and forcibly removed from the hospital as they did not recognize or accept their committed relationship.
Yes, we still have a long road ahead of us but be assured that our fight for equality is indeed the civil rights movement of the 21st century and history is on our side.
I’ve seen some very dark times in our fight for equality but, yet personally, I still believe that I’ve been blessed all these decades to have been a witness to the growth and visibility of both my beloved Latino and GLBT communities.
Yes, the Golden State is truly turning brown … and rainbow flags are waving in every city across California.
The torch of gay activism has indeed been passed onto a new generation of GLBT activists and I have hope because of our youth and students coming out of their closets in middle school and junior high; because of the growing chapters of the Gay Straight Alliances; because of Gays For Good volunteers; they are all helping to create a new America.
This morning, you will be hearing from four great Americans. Gov. Barbara Roberts, a long standing straight ally and friend.
Terry Bean, a true gay trailblazer and hero who founded the Victory Fund and the Human Rights Campaign.
Stuart Milk, the nephew of Harvey Milk and a global human rights advocate in his own right.
And, Dustin Lance Black, a new leader and equality activist for the 21st century.
And so I thank you all in this room for celebrating with us Harvey Milk’s birthday. You’ve made this old cha cha queen very happy.
Sí se puede.
God bless you all.
Nicole Murray Ramirez is the founder and co-chair of the annual Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast.
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