Harvey Milk to Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom


Harvey Milk's nephew Stuart Milk, will accept the Presidential Medal of Freedom at a White House ceremony on August 12, according to the Victory Fund.

Said Stuart: "The President’s action today touches the core of our very human hearts and my uncle would be so proud of this high honor.  His election was, for him, a beginning–a chance to make real change. That change is happening, but we still have so far to go. I hope this recognition inspires LGBT Americans everywhere to heed Harvey’s call to run for office, to serve openly, to live proudly with authenticity and to demand the equality that we all deserve."

Billie Jean King will receive the medal on the same day. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the nation's highest civilian honor, recognizing individuals responsible for "an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national
interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other
significant public or private endeavors.

Said Obama: "These outstanding men and women represent an incredible diversity
of backgrounds.  Their tremendous accomplishments span fields from
science to sports, from fine arts to foreign affairs.  Yet they share
one overarching trait: Each has been an agent of change.  Each saw an
imperfect world and set about improving it, often overcoming great
obstacles along the way. Their relentless devotion to breaking down barriers and lifting up
their fellow citizens sets a standard to which we all should strive. 
It is my great honor to award them the Medal of Freedom."

Additional recipients this year are Ted Kennedy, Nancy Goodman Brinker, Pedro Jose Greer, Jr., Jack Kemp, Rev. Joseph Lowery, Joe Medicine Crow, Sandra Day O'Connor, Sidney Poitier, Chita Rivera, Mary Robinson, Janet Davidson Rowley,Desmond Tutu, and Muhammad Yunus.

More about the recipients here.


  1. MikeMick says

    More tokenism from The Fierce Advocate as his political machine blunts efforts to roll back DADT. God, what a bunch of fucking idiots they take us for. Sad thing is, they’re probably right.

  2. says

    How nice of President Obama to give the medal of Freedom to two people who he does not consider to be worthy of equal protection under the law of the United States of America.

  3. Cyd says

    How many gay people will fall for this one? I dislike this president more and more with every action he takes to appease us. Ugh.

  4. Bill says

    Get a grip, people. Shall we ask the White House to please not mention us at all unless or until they can persuade Congressional leaders to wave magic wands and pass all the LGBT legislation we want?

    Grow up. Last month Obama said we should judge him by his actions, and that by the end of his term we will be happy with his administration. So I’m not sure why some commenters here are treating today’s news as though this is the end of his action on LGBT issues.

    Harvey Milk’s legacy is one of action, not bitching. Live up to it.

  5. John says

    Here, have this medal, commemorative plaque, and glazed ham.

    Now, go away and stop pestering me about your “civil rights.”

  6. ichabod says

    I find it a very moving honor for Harvey Milk’s memory no matter what other struggles we all still face.

  7. wisebear says

    It’s unfortunate that the homophobic closet case Jack Kemp is being honored alongside Harvey Milk and Billie Jean King.

  8. Griff says

    Yes Bill, but Harvey Milk never rationalized away bullshit homophobic policies the first time a shiny object was flashed in front of his face.

    The fact that this news comes so close to the news that Obama is actively blocking attempts to neuter DADT tells you exactly what he thinks of us… A bunch of superficial queens, easily distracted and politically worthless. He values the opinions of racist hicks above our own, and there’s no rationalizing that away.

  9. says

    I hate to be the pessimist here, but I can’t help but think that this is just like the Federal benefits Obama “heroically” and “thoughtfully” extended to gay couples last month…

    … except he extended those benefits only because a) it wouldn’t really hurt him, b) it wouldn’t really *change* anything, and c) he had to do something to get the gays off his back (this last one he even admitted to!).

    When I look at the names of the people on this list, it’s clear that Milk’s is one of those who’s inclusion is suspect. He’s also one of possibly two who have been dead for well over two decades – I just can’t see people getting riled up in honoring a historical figure who’s long dead and gone, even if that person was a gay rights leader.

    When Obama starts giving out Medals of Freedom to the gay activities who are still alive and kicking, then I’ll actually pay attention. Otherwise, this just smacks fo pandering.

  10. Bill says

    Tommy, Billie Jean King is alive and she’s also getting the medal of freedom.

    Griff, it’s very hard to argue with people who seem to believe dismantling years of anti-LGBT laws and regulations takes nothing more than one election and the wave of a presidential hand. It’s simply not that easy because we live in a Democracy, where lawmaking is ugly up close.

    To imply that lack of immediate action on our entire agenda is the same as secretly hating us is beyond immature.

    Only dumbasses will be totally satisfied with Obama’s commitment to LGBT equality BASED SOLELY ON THIS ANNOUNCEMENT. Smarter people who understand politics and governing will see it for what it is–a historic and meaningful gesture. But people who work day and night for LGBT equality will not stop to piss on this…they’ll keep calling and writing their representatives in Congress, which is the only way any progress is going to be made.

  11. Steven says

    Gosh!! there’s some really bitter queens on here!! Give Obama a chance to prove himself! I bet this are the same queens that are still supporting Madonna’s music even though she didn’t do SHIT for US during Prop 8- Don’t understand why this blog keeps talking about this CUNT

  12. Paul R says

    He’s obviously taking baby steps to test the waters and assess the response. As he continues to do more things like this, I expect the significance of his LGBT-related actions to increase. Giving two of these widely publicized medals to two very well-known gays is not such a tiny thing. It’s not going to change the world, but it may change some opinions.

  13. says

    Bill what a sad, stupid man you are…willing to sit by for next 3 years while our Liar-in-Chief throws us crumbs & gives medals to dead men, all the time he continues to support Don’t Ask Don’ Tell and works to deny us our rights. Of course he’s gonna say “oh just be patient…”. It’s just one more lie. One you’re apparently gullible enough to believe.

    The last 2 years of his Presidency will be re-election mode…and nothing of any significance will get done. Why do you think he’s trying to move so quickly on Healthcare & the economy…things he actually CARES about & intends to change. He has zero intention to do anything about GLBT rights. You’re just not smart enough to see it.

  14. says


    With all due respect given to her, I don’t see Billie Jean King as the sort of figurehead for whom a Medal of Freedom is going to turn heads.

    Inspirational? Sure.
    Groundbreaking? Absolutely.
    A stand-up American, gay or straight? Without question.

    On-part with the Cleve Joneses of the world? Eh….

  15. MikeMick says

    Right on. Bill and his ilk have their heads so far up their asses they can taste their breakfast twice. It isn’t that Obama hasn’t put us at the forefront of his agenda — only myopic dipsticks expected that. It’s that he has actually thumbed us in the eye with Rick Warren, the DOMA brief, and his inaction on Choi and Fehrenbach, claiming fealty to the law and the legislative process. Maybe Bill is the kind of demure queer who sits quietly while he gets the shit beat out of him, but there are a lot of us who would rather fight back. Oh yeah, isn’t that what Harvey Milk did?

  16. Bill says

    Yes, that’s what Harvey Milk did, Mikemick. But he fought back by getting elected and then he worked the legislative system to introduce and pass SF’s first gay rights ordinance.

    In other words, he backed up his wishing and hoping and bitching with ACTUAL POLITICAL ACTION. Which is more than most people who blame Obama all day do.

    Stop waiting for your congressional representatives to like you and start making it politically unwise for them not to. That’s when change will happen.

    And no, you can’t accomplish that by posting comments on blogs all day.

  17. MikeMick says

    @ Bill
    How do you know I’m not doing those things AND posting on this blog, genius? Thanks for taking time from your Mensa meeting to enlighten us.

  18. SSD says

    E-mail this article to CA’s Governor, he’s holding on signing the “Harvey Milk Day” honor. In case you weren’t aware he veteod it last time, stating that no one outside of SF knew who he was.

  19. DR says

    Hmmm, bully pulpit to stop dismissals under DADT, which is a tangible benefit, or a nice couple of token gays getting medals…

    Obama needs to remember that symbolic gestures don’t make us equal with everyone else and get up off his ass and do something.

  20. Paul R says

    Please consider that Obama’s domestic agenda got completely derailed last week when he made an offhand two-word comment related to race in the Gates case. He’s pursuing big issues at the moment, the kind that affect all Americans. So again, he’s taking baby steps on LGBT issues because he knows it will stir up a shitstorm among conservatives and they’ll use it against him successfully.

    The GOP is already spreading tons of lies about the health care bill. Think what kind of lies they’ll spread about us? Some of our demands are going to have to wait. Sorry.

  21. says

    IF more people knew more about our history AND were paying more attention to whom the Obama administration has been speaking about in the last three months, they would immediately see that this posthumous medal to Milk is TRANSPARENT pandering because it should be going to the person who, despite Milk’s accomplishments, deserves it 100 times more…whom Obama has already personally acknowledged twice, and his Office of Personnel Management gave an award to in May: FRANK KAMENY … who was picketing the White House for gay rights when Milk was still upset that the guy living in it wasn’t Barry Goldwater.

    Kameny created the then-questionable-even-to-gays expression “Gay Is Good” and cofounded the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, and DC’s Mattachine Society and Gay Activists Alliance, ran for Congress as a gay man, cofounded the unprecedented National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, helped force the American Psychiatric Association to declare gays weren’t mentally ill…before publicly closeted Milk first decided to get into politics over something that had NOTHING to do with gay rights…he simply was pissed that he was asked to pay a business tax early.

    Yes, Milk changed and made many contributions, but his resume of accomplishments are dwarfed by Kameny’s, and even THE PRESIDENT KNOWS IT. He said to LGBTs at the White House Stonewall event on June 29th:

    “It’s the story of progress sought by those who started off with little influence or power; by men and women who brought about change through quiet, personal acts of compassion and courage and sometimes defiance wherever and whenever they could.

    That’s the story of a civil rights pioneer who’s here today, Frank Kameny, who was fired from his job as an astronomer for the federal government simply because he was gay. And in 1965, he led a protest outside the White House, which was at the time both an act of conscience but also an act of extraordinary courage. And so we are proud of you, Frank, and we are grateful to you for your leadership.”

    And despite the fact that he far better fits Obama’s description re the medal of being a pioneering “agent of change” and “breaking down barriers and lifting up their fellow citizens”…poor Frank didn’t get killed, have an Oscar-winning movie made about him, and lives in a world in which most gays are too lazy to know any better, didn’t even recognize him when Obama handed him the pen he used to sign the Crumbs memo…. so he can’t be so easily exploited when Obama has to try to tranquilize The Gays because the most he’s done since taking office is work against our rights rather than for them.

    This is the equivalent of trying to be more popular by wearing designer jeans labeled “Calvin” er “Harvey Milk.”

    AND it’s no more admirable than had Lincoln given an award to Frederick Douglas or Harriet Tubman for fighting slavery while still enforcing slavery.

    Milk and King are getting “Massa’s Medal of NONfreedom.”

    I hope Dustin Lance Black is writing Stuart Milk’s acceptance speech…assuming he’s allowed to speak.

  22. Jan Byrd says

    All of you are so mad at President Obama for awarding Milk the PMoF you don’t stop to think he would have never been chosen if Bush was still in office. And Sarah Palin would have given the award to the killer of the abortion doctor.

  23. inocentmi says

    For those who want everything now, the Presidential Medal award is
    an irritation. But to those who know total equality does in
    fact take time and commitment, these honors are significant
    milestones to confirm we are on the right course. “Are we there
    yet?” is the whining of children. Gratitude, yes, even as I
    continue to press hard for true equality. “I ain’t got no satisfaction,but I try and I try” and we try.