A bill that would declare May 22nd Harvey Milk Day in California and encourage public schools to commemorate and educate about the history of California's first openly gay politician has won a key state Senate committee vote.

Members of the Governmental Organization Committee approved the bill with a 9 to 4 vote and sent it along to its next hearing in the Senate Education Committee.

The bill is sponsored by Equality California and was introduced last month by openly gay Senator Mark Leno, a Democrat from San Francisco.

Openly gay activist Milk won a hard-fought election to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977. But it was a short-lived victory. The next year Dan White, another supervisor, assassinated Milk along with Mayor George Moscone at San Francisco City Hall.

Milk was also a prominent gay activist, who fought against anti-gay initiatives and dubbed himself the “Mayor of Castro Street.”

“Harvey Milk was a true American hero,” said Senator Leno. “He gave hope to an entire generation of gay and lesbian people whose basic humanity and freedom had been denied and dishonored, and he literally gave his life so that I and other LGBT elected officials could serve in public office.”

A similar bill passed the General Assembly last September but Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill on the last day possible to kill the legislation. In his veto message, the governor explained his reasons.

“I respect the author's intent to designate May 22nd as 'Harvey Milk Day' and a day of special significance for California public schools and educational institutions to honor Harvey Milk as an important community leader and public official in the city and county of San Francisco. However, I believe his contributions should continue to be recognized at the local level by those who were most impacted by his contributions.”

Conservative groups had condemned the legislative effort to give Milk his own day.

“It's crazy,” Karen England, executive director of Capitol Resource Institute, told News10, the Sacramento ABC affiliate. “It's a day that celebrates the history of a gay individual for being gay. That's his claim to fame.”

Equality California re-introduced the legislation this year due in part to the enormous success of Director Gus Van Sant's dramatic Harvey Milk biopic Milk. The film contextualized the gay rights achievements of Milk and the struggles he faced.