Schwarzenegger Gives In to Gay Rights

Harvey Milk Day, same-sex marriages get Governator's approval

By Jessica Greene
|  Monday, Oct 12, 2009  |  Updated 8:56 PM EDT
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The National Equality March comes a day after the president vowed to end the ban on gays serving openly in the military and promised to give same-sex couples the same civil rights as their straight counterparts.

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Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Monday 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.

There's also another bright spot in legislation for gay men and women coming from the desk of Schwarzenegger. He signed a bill recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states.

But the legislation does not mean California will recognize gay couples as married, however.

The bill, introduced by Democratic Sen. Merk Leno from San Francisco, requires California to recognize all same-sex marriages performed in states where gay marriage is legal but does not refer to the unions as "marriages." The couples will have all the same legal rights as couples registered as domestic partners with the state -- a status which falls far short of a fully recognized marriage, because of the strictures of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

The signings come a day after gay rights activists took to the streets across the country demanding President Barack Obama keep campaign promise to overturn the Clinton-era "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy of gays in the military.

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