The ginned-up anger over a celebration of a gay political figure in California in 2008 demonstrates how homophobic rhetoric is often regurgitated by right-wing operatives.
That year, a bill seeking to honor Harvey Milk — who was assassinated after being elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and becoming the first openly gay man elected to public office in California — passed in both the state Assembly and Senate. The bill, AB 2567, would mark May 22 across the state as Harvey Milk Day.
In response, an operative named Randy Thomasson circulated an email urging then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to veto the bill, calling it “very inappropriate.” Thomasson’s group, “Save California,” was designated as an anti-LBBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Schwarzenegger would indeed veto AB 2567. However, a year later he signed the second iteration of the bill, SB 572, into law. That led to Thomasson getting coverage from news outlets because of his vocal opposition to Milk being honored.
“Sadly, children in public schools will now have even more in-your-face, homosexual-bisexual-transsexual indoctrination,” he said in a statement to the Associated Press, one of several outlets that failed to alert readers of the extent of Thomasson’s bigoted rhetoric. The advocacy group GLAAD compiled a list of some of his worst remarks:
— [Thomasson] says of transgender policy: “This new law calls transsexuality good, when science, health, logic and love inform us it’s bad.”
— On LGBTQ acceptance in public schools: “If you have your eyes open, you know that ‘LGBTIQ’ activists who claim to be victims are actually trampling the constitutional rights of everyone else,”…”Free speech, religious freedom, ownership rights, property rights, parental rights, and the right of association are all being victimized. This is reason enough for any right-thinking person to oppose the tyrannical ‘LGBTIQ’ agenda, and high motivation for loving parents to rescue their children both academically and morally.”
In 2013, years after Harvey Milk Day went into effect as a day of special significance (but not a state holiday), Thomasson continued his campaign, urging parents to “boycott” the occasion.
“Children belong to their parents, not to the government,” he told KGO-TV. “And so, if government schools are sexually indoctrinating children, it’s up to the parents to number one, protect their children and two, protest and tell these schools don’t do it again.”
Just as Thomasson’s rhetoric continue to be hosted online, it has become a focal point of American right-wing political speech in general — the weaponization offalse accusations of “indoctrination” and “grooming” against LGBTQ communities to push legislation.
Harvey Milk Day continues to be celebrated as of May 2022.
Update 5/15/2022, 10:40 p.m. PST: This article has been revamped and updated. You can review the original here. — ag