A bill declaring a Harvey Milk Day in California - to honor the slain gay rights figure - passed the state Senate today 24-14 and now goes to the Assembly.
No surprise that all 23 Democrats present voted yes. But Sen. Abel Maldonado, R-Santa Maria, changed his vote from a "no" on the same bill last year to the sole GOP "yes" on the floor Thursday.
Two things swayed him, said Maldonado, who earned flak from GOP collegues recently when he became one of six in his party to vote for the February budget deal. On Thursday, Maldonado said he was already feeling heat from conservative callers to his office about the Milk vote.
He said he is telling those who object that he read the Milk bill closely, as he did this time, rather than listening to groups complaining about what it supposedly would do. "There's nothing in this bill that mandates teaching that Harvey Milk was a homosexual," Maldonado said. "For folks calling this "Gay Day," I say read the bill."
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Milk, a San Francisco supervisor, and George Moscone, the city's mayor, were assassinated in 1978 by a political antagonist and former supervisor, Dan White.
Maldonado said he erred last year in believing that the bill would force, instead of "encouraging," the teaching of Milk's life and leaving it up to local schools to decide.
But Maldonado also credited recent testimony before the Senate Education Committee recently with changing his mind. That testimony happened to come from a young gay man, Dustin Lance Black, who won an Academy Award this year for his screenplay of the movie "Milk."
Maldonado said he empathized with Black, as he described growing up in a Mormon family in Texas and California and feeling emotional turmoil and isolation because of anti-gay sentiment. "I rarely get swayed by testimony," Maldonado said.
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