San Francisco, CA -
At an event Friday honoring the first Harvey Milk Day, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi expressed optimism at repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" this year.
Speaking to a crowd at San Francisco's LGBT Community Center in the Castro District, Pelosi, a Democrat, said Harvey Milk helped open doors for the gay community.
"We'll come right back to Harvey Milk when he said his victory signaled a green light to all who were disenfranchised," Pelosi said. "A green light to move forward and that the doors are open to everyone."
California lawmakers have designated May 22 – Milk's birthday – as Harvey Milk Day. Milk would have turned 80 this year.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger reluctantly signed into law state Senator Mark Leno's Harvey Milk Day bill last October. Schwarzenegger rejected a similar measure the previous year. In vetoing the first bill, Schwarzenegger said Milk's accomplishments should be celebrated at the local level.
Milk's 1977 election to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors made him the first openly gay elected official from a major U.S. city. The next year, Dan White, a disgruntled former supervisor, gunned down Milk and San Francisco Mayor George Moscone inside City Hall. During Milk's short tenure, the camera shop owner turned politician dramatically increased the visibility of the burgeoning gay rights movement.
At Friday's event sponsored by Equality California, the state's largest gay advocate, Pelosi expressed confidence that "Don't Ask," the 1993 law that bans gay troops from serving openly, would be repealed this year.
"'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' I feel quite certain, will be a memory come Christmas," Pelosi said.
Pelosi's remarks come as Congress prepares to take up the issue of repeal.
Rallies honoring the memory of Milk are expected to take place in 25 cities throughout the country on Saturday.