California Governor Arnold
Schwarzenegger has signed two gay rights bills.
Schwarzenegger signed the bills before
midnight on Sunday. One bill sets aside Harvey Milk's May 22
birthday to honor the gay rights leader. The second recognizes gay
and lesbian marriages performed outside the state prior to November
“We are grateful to the governor for
signing these critical and groundbreaking measures into law and
rising above partisan politics to improve the lives of LGBT
Californians,” Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality
California (EQCA), said in a statement.
State Senator Mark Leno introduced the
Harvey Milk Day bill after the governor vetoed a similar bill last
year. Schwarzenegger said Milk's accomplishments should be
celebrated at the local level.
But Milk's profile has soared during
the intervening months. President Obama honored Milk with a Medal of
Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award; the California Museum,
which was conceived by Schwarzenegger's wife, Maria Shriver, is about
to induct him into its California Hall of Fame; and a movie about his
life, Milk, drew national attention to the tumultuous early
years of the gay rights movement.
“Californians will now learn about
Harvey's amazing contributions to the advancement of civil rights for
decades to come,” Kors said. “He is a role model to millions,
and this legislation will help ensure his legacy lives on forever.”
Conservatives, led by the group
SaveCalifornia.com, had urged Schwarzenegger to veto the bill a
“So, under 'Harvey Milk Gay Day,'
elementary and secondary schoolchildren could be taught adult-child
homosexual 'sex' is OK, having multiple sexual relationships at the
same time is OK, and telling a very public lie is OK if it 'gets you
ahead,'” the group said on its website.
Schwarzenegger also signed a bill that
recognizes gay marriages performed outside the state before the
passage of Proposition 8. The bill was also introduced by openly gay
state Senator Mark Leno.
Voters approved Proposition 8, the
voter-initiated constitutional amendment that bans gay marriage in
the Golden State, by a narrow margin on November 4. The California
Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the amendment but allowed gay
and lesbian marriages performed during the June-to-November “summer
of love” to stand. The bill clarifies the ruling by including
out-of-state gay marriages.
"When California offered marriage
licenses to same-sex couples in 2008, spouses who were already
married in another state or country were prohibited from re-marrying
in California," Senator Leno said. "This legislation
ensures that same-sex couples are protected by existing California
law that recognizes all marriages equally, regardless of where they
The social conservative group
California Family Council (CFC), which supports the gay marriage ban,
opposed Leno's gay marriage recognition bill, calling it
“The people of California are
sovereign, and the language of Proposition 8 is clear regarding the
people's intent,” Ron Prentice, director of CFC, said in a
statement. “However, California's current Legislature will
continue to attempt to weaken the laws set forth by the people.”
Prentice also serves as the chairman of
ProtectMarriage.com, the group behind the gay marriage ban.