California to honour Harvey Milk

Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to hold public office in a major city in the United States, is to be honoured with a state day of recognition.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, the governor of California, signed a bill yesterday granting the honour to the gay activist, who was assassinated in 1978.

The decision marks a U-turn by Schwarzenegger, who last year vetoed a similar bill arguing that Milk should only be honoured in San Francisco where he made the biggest difference.

Milk was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, the city's legislative authority, in 1977 but was murdered after just 11 months in the post by a disgruntled former member. Sean Penn won the Best Actor Oscar for his potrayal of the activist in the 2008 film Milk.

A spokesman for Schwarzenegger said the publicity Milk and his work had received over the past year had been a factor in the governor's change of view. "That made the difference from last year: he's really come to symbolise the gay community in California." Harvey Milk Day will be on 22 May, his birthday. It will not be a state holiday but will be marked by public schools.