The California Senate Education Committee voted 7-2 yesterday to designate a day to honour murdered gay rights activist Harvey Milk.

If passed by the Senate, it would designate May 22nd, Milk’s birthday, as a special commemorative day and encourage schools to recognise the activist’s work.

However, the day would not be an official holiday.

The legislation has been supported by Dustin Lance Black, who wrote the Oscar-winning screenplay for the film Milk.

Black has credited Milk with inspiring him, saying he frequently thought of suicide before hearing of the campaigner.

He said Milk’s work against prejudice and bigotry “lit the fire” for gay rights movements and encouraged him.

“For the first time in many years, I did not think about taking my own life and I did not cry myself to sleep on Sabbath nights, and I started to dream again and I stopped trying to vanish and I started trying to excel,” he said.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a similar bill last year, saying it should be up to individual organisations whether to honor the activist. However, his spokesman told AP that the governor did not have a position on the latest bill.

Known during his lifetime as “The Mayor of Castro Street,” Milk remains a political icon among gay activists for his ability to build the LGBT community into a grassroots political force.

Milk was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977.

In his 11 months in office he sponsored a gay rights bill and helped to defeat a proposition that would have seen openly gay and lesbian teachers sacked.

He was shot and killed at City Hall by Dan White, a disgruntled former Supervisor, on November 27th 1978.

Milk was recently honoured with a bust on permanent display in San Francisco City Hall, a rare accolade for someone who never held the position of Mayor.