Harvey Milk Still Can't Get Any Love from the Orange County Board of Education

Emile Hirsch (left) as Cleve Jones and Sean Penn as the title character in Milk.
Emile Hirsch (left) as Cleve Jones and Sean Penn as the title character in Milk.
Danny Nicoletta/Focus Features

UPDATE, MAY 16, 9 P.M.: In case it was not clear in the original post, there really is a screening of Milk on Harvey Milk Day (May 22, or Sunday) at The Frida Cinema in downtown Santa Ana. Tickets are $8 to $10 for the 7:30 p.m. show. Visit thefridacinema.org for more details. And yes, Frida founder Logan Crow confirms to the Weekly that he would be happy to arrange a screening for the Orange County Board of Education. 

ORIGINAL POST, MAY 13, 6:10 A.M.: On May 22, which is Harvey Milk Day, the Frida Cinema in downtown Santa Ana is screening Gus Van Sant's critically acclaimed 2009 film Milk, which is about the slain San Francisco politician and gay rights activist.

Perhaps Frida founder Logan Crow can schedule a private screening for the Orange County Board of Education, which obviously needs some edumacatin' about the first openly gay person elected to office in California.

Board members just parlayed a proposed, innocuous resolution to honor Milk on Harvey Milk Day into a diss of a Golden State civil rights leader and more suspicion, wariness and revulsion of certain trustees by locals seeking equal rights for all.

Count John Bedell among the board member drawing stink eyes. He would not support the resolution Wednesday because he wants "less Harvey Milk" and "a more generic resolution honoring human dignity." Eventually,  David Boyd's proposed resolution died—but not until after he warned his fellow board members that their lack of action will be interpreted as "anti-gay."

Of course, Boyd knows all about that. As the Weekly reported last month, Boyd called for an Orange County Department of Education investigation into emails written by his fellow board member Robert Hammond, who refers to gays as "sodomites" in one and in another asks a department employee, "I hope you don't mind, but I plan on asking you about your sexual orientation publicly at our next board meeting."

Boyd wanted direction from department experts on whether Hammond might be creating a hostile workplace. But Boyd's probe request was actually before the board Wednesday morning, having been moved from the afternoon session, and the trustee arrived too late to raise it. No one else felt the need to bring it up for discussion.

News about Boyd's call for an investigation drew many concerned community members.

"It was a doozy," said Laura W. Kanter of the board meeting. She's the director of Policy, Advocacy and Youth Programs with the  LGBT Center OC.

In the chambers were people like her seeking respect for the rights of all students and adults, despite their sexual proclivities. Also in attendance were parents fearful a gay agenda was being rammed down their kids' throats, including some who chose to make it a religious issue.

Hammond did not address any of this in open session. But the Orange County Register reports that afterward he explained many people have no problem referring to gays as sodomites, including members of the Religious Right. 

As for the email suggesting he was about to out an employee, Hammond accused Boyd of taking it out of context, claiming he was referencing a survey that would ask students if they had ever been bullied because of their sexuality. Hammond says he was making the point that it's as inappropriate to ask a student about his or her sexuality as it is an adult district employee.

At least those seeking more tolerance can see in Boyd that the Orange County Board of Education is inching ever so slowly in that direction. On Sept. 17, 2009, the folks serving on that board voted unanimously to oppose state Senate Bill 572, which went on to declare May 22 Harvey Milk Day.

No one on that board changed the time of the hearing.


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