Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed into law a bill recognizing the contributions of slain former San Francisco supervisor and gay rights leader Harvey Milk and designating a day in his honor.

The bill marks May 22 as Harvey Milk Day statewide and encourages schools to conduct commemorative exercises in Milk’s honor.

Milk, who was assassinated along with Mayor George Moscone in November 1978 by Supervisor Dan White, was San Francisco’s first openly gay supervisor. He helped defeat a proposition known as the Briggs Initiative, which would have banned gays and lesbians from teaching in public schools.

Schwarzenegger had vetoed a similar bill last year, saying Milk should be honored on a local level, not statewide. The governor did not offer a statement today on why he signed the bill this year.

The bill’s author, state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, said a lot has happened since the governor’s veto.

“In the past year, we’ve seen an Academy Award-winning Hollywood film, the president of the United States posthumously bestowed the highest civilian honor in the land – the Presidential Medal of Freedom – on him, and the governor and first lady announced plans to induct him into the California Hall of Fame,” Leno said.

“I think it all came together and this is the time,” he said.

Equality California, a group that sponsored the bill, said this morning that the signing of the bill marks the first time a state has officialy designated a day in honor of an openly lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender person.

“Californians will now learn about Harvey’s amazing contributions to the advancement of civil rights for decades to come,” Kors said. “He is a role model to millions, and this legislation will help ensure his legacy lives on forever.”

The group, which opposed the bill, claimed in a statement released today that it is “appalled” that the governor signed the legislation.

“Sadly, children in public schools will now have even more in-your-face, homosexual-bisexual-transsexual indoctrination,” the group’s president Randy Thomasson said in a statement. “This provides the strongest impetus yet for loving parents to remove their children from anti-family public schools.”

Leno said there is nothing in the bill that will require schools to teach children about Milk, and that the bill will have no financial impact on the state.

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