California conservatives say they are "disappointed" and "appalled" by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's signing into law two pro-gay bills, including the Harvey Milk Day legislation which honors the pro-gay rights activist.
Gov. Schwarzenegger signed Senate Bill 572, authored by Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), into law Sunday night and announced it on Monday. The bill calls for the governor to annually proclaim May 22, which is Milk's birthday, as Harvey Milk Day in honor of the first openly homosexual politician. The legislation also encourages schools to conduct exercises or programs that focus on Milk's contributions.
"California Family Council is disappointed that Governor Schwarzenegger has placed the interests of a specific group over the educational needs of students," the group expressed in a statement Monday. "SB 572 wrongly encourages schools to sacrifice students' class time in order to appease special-interest groups."
Pro-family groups raised concern that children as young as five years old will be exposed to the controversial subject of sexual orientation in public school classrooms.
West Coast pro-family group SaveCalifornia.com used stronger language to denounce the legislation.
Noting that the new law teaches children to "admire" the life and values of the homosexual activist, Randy Thomasson, president of SaveCalifornia.com, warned, "The 'suitable commemorative exercises' that are part of 'Harvey Milk Day' can easily result in cross-dressing exercises, 'LGBT pride' parades and mock gay weddings on school campuses – everything Harvey Milk supported."
Last year, Schwarzenegger had vetoed a similar bill that sought to establish a Harvey Milk Day. The California governor had said Milk should be honored locally, mainly in San Francisco, where he had the most impact.
But after he signed the bill this week, Schwarzenegger's spokesman explained that Milk has grown in prominence.
Milk was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in August and actor Sean Penn won an Academy Award for his portrayal of the politician in the 2008 film "Milk."
"He has become much more of a symbol of the gay community than he was a year ago because of those things," Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear said, according to The Associated Press. "That made the difference from last year: he's really come to symbolize the gay community in California."
On the same day the California governor officially designated Harvey Milk Day, he also signed a bill that recognizes out-of-state same-sex marriages conducted during the period when California legally allowed such unions.
Same-sex marriages performed outside of California between June 16, 2008 and November 5, 2008 are to be legally recognized as in-state marriages, according to the bill, also authored by Leno. In November, state voters passed ballot initiative Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriage.
"This is tragic news for California families," state Karen England, executive director of Capitol Resource Institute, on Monday. "The governor has chosen to completely undermine the will of the people – the millions of Californians who have twice stated that they intend for only traditional marriage to be recognized in our state. By signing SB 54, the governor thumbs his nose at the initiative process and the voters who trust that their vote means something."