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Lawmakers pass bill to honor Harvey Milk

September 3, 2009 |  5:25 pm

California lawmakers today passed a measure calling for a special day of recognition for Harvey Milk, the state’s first openly gay elected leader who was assassinated by a political rival in 1978.

The Assembly approval of the measure by state Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) marks the second year in a row that lawmakers have given their blessing to a day of honor for Milk.

Last year, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a virtually identical bill, saying celebrations of Milk’s life should remain a local matter.

Supporters of the measure hope that recent recognition of Milk’s accomplishments — including an Oscar-winning film, presidential plaudits and the governor's own selection of Milk for the California Hall of Fame — might sway Schwarzenegger this year.

The proposal is among the most hotly fought bills in the Legislature. The governor’s office has received more than 100,000 phone calls, e-mails, letters, faxes and tweets — short dispatches on the Twitter website — about the issue.

Aaron McLear, Schwarzenegger’s spokesman, said a majority have been in opposition to the measure.

Leno’s bill now returns to the state Senate, which already approved it, for concurrence on a few technical changes.

—Eric Bailey