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Pelosi Remarks at Reception to Celebrate First Annual Harvey Milk Day

San Francisco - Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks at a reception this evening hosted by Equality California to kick off the first annual Harvey Milk Day, which will be celebrated throughout California on Saturday, May 22.  Below are the Speaker's remarks. 

“Thank you very much Mark [Leno], for making this day possible for all of us to take such great pride in Harvey Milk and for everyone else who has issues that relate to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender.  Let me just talk to you a little bit.  First I want to acknowledge the Mayor and thank him for his tremendous leadership. 

“All those of us who are members of the official family of San Francisco take such pride in this center--it was one of Harvey's dreams and it was a challenge to build.  James and Rebecca, congratulations.  And thank you for your hospitality this evening and for the hospitality you extend to the community.  Remember first the groundbreaking, and then the dedication?  With Phyllis [Lyon] and Del [Martin]?  That day was such a beautiful day here.  It was such a beautiful day. Thank you, Stuart Milk.  Stuart, we all feel a part of the Harvey Milk family, and as part of that family, we take such great pride in Stuart. 

“Geoff Kors, thank you and Equality California for making this day possible as well, for collecting over 40,000 signatures and bringing them to the governor to make sure he knew what tremendous support was out there for this important day.  It's a day about Harvey Milk.  But it's also a day about everyone who has ever felt discrimination or cared about those who do, their families and all.

“To Jim Hormel. Jim Hormel has made so many things happen for our community, the community of course that is represented in this room. For some of who may not have been born yet at the time, when you go back several decades, you know 30, 40 years ago in San Francisco, there was a gay community, and we knew gay people--gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, not that fullest description.  And they were teachers in the school; they were community activists.  They were Phyllis and Del with the health and issues that related to the well-being of women in our community.  They were completely involved in all the issues of the day, and of course they still are today.

“So everybody knew people in the gay community.  So with many more people moving here and therefore the issue being heightened in people's minds about who is in charge here, and what does this mean to our community and how does it change the community of San Francisco.  It was the people who had been leaders in every aspect of our community who were held in such high esteem, and certainly of course, in time Harvey Milk.

“He had this incredible personality.  He was just, he had a charisma about him.  He was blessed with a special personality and people loved him.  And also he was courageous.  He was so courageous to do what he did, to go out there.  He had confidence, though.  And when he won, he said--I just want to read this quote so I get it right. When Harvey Milk was sworn in as Supervisor, he said his ‘victory signaled a green light to all who feel disenfranchised, a green light to move forward.' 

“So what we're talking about gathering these 40,000 plus signatures, that is in the spirit of Harvey Milk.  He didn't just have an idea or think something would be good if it happened, he acted upon it.  He acted upon it.  And that is the legacy that we have and that is why having this day is so important. 

“As Stuart says, and I thank you for remembering Stuart, in Washington when people say: ‘It's easy for you because San Francisco people are so tolerant.'  I say, ‘Don't use that word around me.'  It's not about tolerance. That's condescending to me, although that's a beautiful word in certain circumstances.  That's not what we're about in this circumstance.  We're about not tolerant, we're about respect.  We're about taking pride, taking pride in our GLBT community.

“Then Jim talked about the three issues in terms of marriage, in terms of ending job discrimination, and in terms of service in the military. 

“If you ask most people in America, ‘Do you support discrimination?' they would say no.  They would think that that was a terrible thing if anybody thought they supported discrimination.  And so when people ask me: ‘Do you support gay marriage?  Why do you support gay marriage?'  Because I do not believe in discrimination in any way.  And you don't either, so you should be supporting gay marriage too.  Why is it even an issue that we're talking-- about discrimination in the workplace in this day, in this age, in this century?  Let's get this over with. [Applause.] 

“Barney Frank, Tammy Baldwin, and Jared Polis--three openly gay, elected openly gay, I don't know how, I don't know and I couldn't even guess.  [Laughter.]  But I know that these three people are working hard for everybody in America, not just people in the community.  But the blessing that this community is to our country--and working for 16 years, we've had ENDA as a bill, we've had it as an idea for much longer, but as a bill, 16 years, long overdue.  ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' I feel quite certain will be a memory come Christmas. [Applause.]

“The memories of Harvey Milk when he was here with us -- and I believe he's with us in our hearts. Stuart, remember when we went to Treasure Island and dedicated the building, the administrative building, the Harvey Milk building, and the bust was there, similar to the one in City Hall?  But remember, there were young people in the job corps--these were young people, very diverse, young, a group of young people in the job corps, listening to Stuart talk about his uncle. So proud to be there, so happy to know that Harvey Milk, so free of any thought of discrimination, of that another couple of generations older might have. 

But that for me, was a very special day, because a whole different young generation of people--kids, teenagers, maybe 20 years old--were cheering and cheering and cheering for Harvey Milk, people who might not have heard of him.  Except that Stuart has been so magnificent in keeping this flame, that Mark Leno has been such a champion, not only in the Harvey Milk Day, but in all that he has done in terms of the workplace, whatever the issue happens to be, to end discrimination. And it is not without courage, I mean I know within this community everybody thinks it is the automatic thing to do.  But it does take courage.  Less and less now that Mark has led the way.

“So we're coming together tonight, some of us with memories of Harvey, and so whether it's the workplace, whether it's the military, whether it's the institution of marriage, whatever it is. Whether it is fighting HIV/AIDS.  Herb Shultz is here now.  Herb was appointed by the President to be the Health and Human Services Representative for Region Nine.  Herb is going to enforce the law that we have in terms of health care reform that was so important to us when dealing with HIV/AIDS, pre-existing conditions, ADAP, making drugs more affordable, caps on premiums, no caps on benefits received, in so many ways this will make a tremendous difference.  It will also make a difference to women--no longer will being a woman be considered a pre-existing medical condition.  For women who are victims of domestic violence, that was a pre-existing medical condition, and a reason that she could be denied coverage.  So Herb, thank you for what you are going to do and what you have done in support of us. [Applause.]  He is a representative of Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, so thank you, and for her leadership as well.

“In any event, I'm going back 30 or 40 years, when some of you, again, were not born at that time, although you've read about it in history books.  All of you have benefited from the life and leadership of Harvey Milk.  Many generations will benefit from that, as well as his legacy that you are all a part of.  Again, Jim Hormel has made so many things happen by his support, his intercession in terms of making things happen, his financial support in making things happen, and of course his being appointed by President Clinton to be the first openly gay ambassador. That, in itself, just sent a message of confidence across the world, not just to Ambassador Hormel, but about America.  About America.  So thank you for your courage and your leadership as well.

“This is a very special day for many of us because as Stuart mentioned, it is an unhappy anniversary in terms of the verdict coming down, but the eve of a very happy occasion.  Harvey Milk--80?  How can he be turning 80? He will always be young in our minds and in our hearts and in the spirit that can engage all of us. 

“But as we leave here tonight, let's do so in a very hopeful vein because this election gave people pride, it also gave people hope.  It gave people hope, and that's what we have today. And when we passed the health care bill, people said to me: ‘How are we going to do this, it looks almost impossible?'  And I said to them, and then it applies to what we want to do in our other issues here, I said to them: ‘We are going to go up to the gate and we are going to push it over.  If the gate is locked, we are going to climb over the fence.  If the fence is too high, we are going to pole vault over it.  If that doesn't work, we are going to parachute in.  We're trying to get over to the other side of this fence.' 

“So to with these other issues, the gays in the military, the ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell' issue, the ENDA issue, the marriage issue and we'll come right back to Harvey Milk when he said his victory gave a green light to all who were disenfranchised, a green light to move forward, and this is the part I love, and that the doors are open to everyone.

“Happy Harvey Milk Day.”