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California Governor honors Gay Activist
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California Governor honors Gay Activist

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Staff Writer

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill on October 13 commemorating Harvey Milk, the first openly Gay politician elected to public office in the state. Under the measure, the governor proclaims May 22 - Milk's birthday - as a day of significance across the state. The day of significance would not close schools or state offices.

"He really saw this signing as a way to honor the Gay community in California," said Aaron McLear, a spokesman for the governor.

Last year, Schwarzenegger vetoed a similar bill, saying he believed Milk should be recognized at the local level.

The legislation passed the state Senate in May and the California Assembly last month. The legislation has been divisive; according to the governor's office, Schwarzenegger received more than 100,000 phone calls and e-mails from citizens opposing the legislation.

Milk, one of the country's most celebrated Gay advocates, served briefly as San Francisco's supervisor before he and the city's mayor, George Moscone, were assassinated in 1978.

Earlier this year, Milk received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and was posthumously inducted into the California Hall of Fame.

Milk was a "unique" historical figure who led a civil rights movement and then was "assassinated in his public office for being who he was," said State Sen. Mark Leno, the Democrat who introduced the bill.

"The reality is Harvey Milk is a hero to so many people and a great role model," said Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California, the group that backed the bill introduced by Leno. "It's very appropriate that the state he worked in and [which] passed the first Gay rights bill in the country should honor him."

The bill marks the first time any state has officially honored an openly Gay person.

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