Tucson Progressive

Pamela Powers Hannley, a progressive voice for Arizona

What can we learn from the gay rights struggle of the 1970s? Don’t give up the fight!

What have we learned in the past 33 years? Apparently not much in the brotherly love category. Far too many of us are easily manipulated by hatred and fear ginned up by right-wingers and Christian zealots.

Last night I watched Milk, the 2008 movie about activist Harvey Milk (above), the first openly gay man to hold a major elected office, a position on the County Board of Supervisors.

Watching an inspiring movie like this one two years after the will-it-get-an-Oscar? hoopla allows the viewer to concentrate on the story and the multiple parallels between 1978 and 2010.

Being a woman … ahem… of a certain age, I was a happenin’ young 20-something in 1978 and remember well the multiple movements of the 1960s and 1970s, but I had forgotten Anita Bryant’s anti-homosexual crusade.

A pop-singer-turned-Evangelist, Bryant led a campaign to overturn a Dade County, Florida law that prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. After that law was overturned, she made appearances in several states to help them repeal similar anti-discrimination laws nationwide. (Sounds familiar, huh? Using religion and fear of the other to divide the populace.)

Running parallel with Bryant’s anti-gay efforts were Milk’s gay rights efforts in San Francisco. The movie depicts Milk debating and tirelessly fighting a California legislator who backs Proposition 6, a measure that would have barred gays from teaching in California schools and would allow schools to fire gay teachers.

The parallels between the anti-gay fervor of the 1970s and the anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim fervor being promoted today by Republicans and Tea Baggers were striking. Fear, religiosity, and preservation of family and “American values” were used to paint gays as outsiders– just as these right-wing strategies are used today to paint immigrants and Muslims as dangerous outsiders and justify discrimination.

California’s Prop 6 (which eventually failed) even had witch-hunt tactics like SB1070. One of the proponents of Prop 6 says that they have “procedures to identify who’s a homosexual”. His statement so reminded me of Governor Jan Brewer’s reassurances that Arizona’s law enforcement officials can spot illegal immigrants but then she couldn’t say exactly how.

Milk’s speeches toward the end of the movie– and the end of his life, since he was assassinated in 1978– were stirring.

“I want to recruit you to further the fight to preserve democracy,” he says.

Referring to “all men are created equal” in the Declaration of Independence and “give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breath free” on the Statue of Liberty, Milk says, “No matter how hard they try, they can’t erase those words from the Declaration of Independence. No matter how hard they try, they can’t chip those words from the Statue of Liberty.”

What can we learn from Harvey Milk? The struggle continues. Keep fighting. Vote!

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This entry was posted on September 8, 2010 by in 2010 elections, Arizona, equality, Immigration, Republicans, SB 1070.

About

The Tucson Progressive: Pamela Powers Hannley

I stand on the side of Love. I believe in kindness to all creatures on Earth and the inherent self-worth of all individuals--not just people who agree with me or look like me.

Widespread economic and social injustice prompted me to become a candidate for the Arizona House, representing Legislative District 9 in the 2016 election. My platform focuses on economic reforms to grow Arizona's economy, establish a state-based public bank, fix our infrastructure, fully fund public education, growlocal small businesses and community banks, and put people back to work at good-paying jobs. I also stand for equal rights, choice, and paycheck fairness for women. I am running as a progressive and running clean.

My day job is managing editor for the American Journal of Medicine, an academic medicine journal with a worldwide circulation. In addition, my husband and I co-direct Arizonans for a New Economy, Arizona's public banking initiative. I am a member of the national board of the Public Banking Institute, and I am co-chair of the Arizona Democratic Progressive Caucus, the largest caucus of the Arizona Democratic Party.

I am a published author, photographer, videographer, clay artist, mother, nana, and wife. I have a bachelor's degree in journalism from Ohio State University and a masters in public health from the University of Arizona. I grew up in Amherst, Ohio, but I have lived in Tucson, Arizona since 1981. I am a proud member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson and the Public Relations Society of America.

My Tucson Progressive blog and Facebook page feature large doses of liberal ideas, local, state, and national politics, and random bits of humor. I also blog at Blog for Arizona and the Huffington Post.

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