Page last updated at 21:46 GMT, Monday, 12 October 2009 22:46 UK

Gay rights activist Milk honoured

Harvey Milk, pictured in November 1977
Milk was assassinated in 1978, less than a year after his election

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed into law a bill that establishes a day recognising US gay rights leader Harvey Milk.

Harvey Milk Day will be marked in California on 22 May, Milk's birthday. The activist was assassinated in 1978.

Mr Schwarzenegger vetoed a similar bill last year.

In the interim, Milk was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and was the subject of a film for which actor Sean Penn won an Oscar.

Milk was a leader in the gay rights movement and was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977.

According to the new law, he was the first openly gay man elected to public office in a major public city. He was assassinated in November 1978, after 11 months in the role.

Sean Penn as Harvey Milk
Sean Penn's portrayal of Harvey Milk earned him an Oscar

Vetoing the previous bill in 2008, Mr Schwarzenegger said that Milk should be honoured locally by those to whom he made the greatest difference.

The governor's spokesman, Aaron McLear, told Associated Press on Monday that the publicity Milk and his work had received over the past year had been a factor in his change of view.

"That made the difference from last year: he's really come to symbolise the gay community in California," he said.

The day will not be a state holiday but will be marked by public schools.

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