Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Harvey Milk Day in Orange County

If you've seen the film Milk, you know that Orange County has played an infamous role in the struggle for LGBT civil rights.  The main conflict of the film is about Proposition 6 in 1978, which sought to make it legal for public schools in California to fire teachers for being gay.  This discriminatory ballot measure was proposed by a State Senator from Fullerton named John Briggs.  The proposition was also known as "The Briggs Initiative."

Orange County has spawned some very outspoken opponents to LGBT civil rights, like Bob Dornan, who once said, "Don't use the word gay unless it's an acronym for 'Got AIDS yet?'" and William Dannemeyer, who once proposed that we quarantine people with HIV/AIDS.  For a fun and infuriating read, check out the book "Shut up, fag! Quotations From the Files of Congressman Bob Dornan the Man Who Would Be President" Needless to say, Orange County has a lot of ugly historical baggage when it comes to LGBT civil rights.  Even in 2008, over 60 percent of the residents of Orange County voted for Prop 8, while only 52 percent statewide voted for it.  According to my activist friend Baxter, Orange County has "an extra scoop of homophobia."

However, since 2008, things have begun to change dramatically in Orange County, so much so that in 2012 the OC Board of Supervisors voted to officially recognize Harvey Milk Day.  The state of California adopted the recognition in 2009 but, hey, we're Orange County.  We take a little longer to progress.  Nevertheless, on May 23 of this year, The Center OC organized a special event for Harvey Milk Day in which Cleve Jones, AIDS activist and friend of Harvey Milk, gave an inspiring speech, and OC Supervisor Shawn Nelson gave The Center and Cleve an official proclamation.  

I am currently working on a documentary film about art, activism, and the LGBT community in Orange County, so I decided to take my video camera to this event and film it.  I am very glad I did, because there was no one else filming this historic event.  Here's a 15-minute short I made:



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