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Harvey Milk tapped for state Hall of Fame

August 25, 2009 |  6:28 pm

Harvey Milk, the slain gay-rights activist made more famous by the recent Oscar-winning film "Milk," didn’t make Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s cut for the a statewide day of recognition last year.

But today Schwarzenegger and First Lady Maria Shriver announced their selection of Milk, the first openly gay man elected to public office in the state, into the California Hall of Fame.

In 2008, Schwarzenegger vetoed legislation to proclaim May 22 – Milk’s birthday – a date  of “special significance." In his veto message, Schwarzenegger wrote that Milk’s “contributions should continue to be recognized at the local level by those who were most impacted” during his term as a San Francisco supervisor. Milk was assassinated while holding that post in 1978.

Today, Milk was among 13 Californians the governor and first lady honored because they “embody California’s innovative spirit and have made their mark on history,” according to the announcement.

Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) plans to put Harvey Milk Day legislation on the governor’s desk again this year – in hopes of a different result. President Obama honored Milk with the Presidential Medal of Freedom earlier this summer.

Francisco Castillo, a Schwarzenegger spokesman, said the governor does not yet have a position on the legislation. The change from vetoing the bill last year to the Hall of Fame honor this year is “not a shift” in positions for the governor, he said.

“The governor believes the California Hall of Fame is the right place and an appropriate venue to celebrate Harvey Milk’s contributions,” Castillo said.

The other members of the incoming Hall of Fame group are entertainer Carol Burnett, former Intel CEO Andrew Grove, former Gov. Hiram Johnson, decathlete and philanthropist Rafer Johnson, industrialist Henry J. Kaiser, philanthropist and peace activist Joan Kroc, filmmaker George Lucas, football commentator John Madden, artist Fritz Scholder, author Danielle Steel, bodybuilding pioneer and Schwarzenegger mentor Joe Weider, and Air Force pilot Chuck Yeager.

--Shane Goldmacher in Sacramento