Barack Obama | Harvey Milk | News

Obama Honors Harvey Milk, 15 Others, with Highest Civilian Honor



President Obama honored 16 people today with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor. Among them are gay rights pioneer Harvey Milk and tennis player Billie Jean King.

Milk The medal recognizes people who have made "an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors."

Additional recipients this year are Senator Ted Kennedy, physicist Stephen Hawking, breast cancer activist Nancy Goodman Brinker, physician Pedro Jose Greer, Jr., former Congressman Jack Kemp, Rev. Joseph Lowery, last living Plains indian war chief Joe Medicine Crow, former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, actor Sidney Poitier, actress Chita Rivera, former President of Ireland Mary Robinson, geneticist Janet Davidson Rowley, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and anti-poverty leader Muhammad Yunus.

Milk's nephew Stuart accepted the medal. Sadly, Ted Kennedy was too ill to attend the ceremony. His eldest child, Kara Kennedy, accepted the medal.

Clips of Stuart Milk and Billie Jean King, AFTER THE JUMP...

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  1. Were he still alive, I wonder if Harvey Milk would boycott the ceremony.

    Posted by: MikeMick | Aug 12, 2009 2:24:42 PM

  2. That's a really good mix of people, including a couple notable Republicans. Watch how the conservatives won't even notice that, but will instead throw a hissy fit about him "rewarding" Harvey Milk and Billie Jean King.

    Posted by: Dback | Aug 12, 2009 2:32:38 PM

  3. Of course Milk would boycott such b.s., Mickmick. He had integrity. (March on DC in October!)

    Posted by: Let'sFaceIt | Aug 12, 2009 2:35:38 PM

  4. He shouldn't bother. He'd get less criticism.

    Posted by: Wes | Aug 12, 2009 3:08:47 PM

  5. Gawd, Obama totally hates us. I just wish he'd get on with making it totally public_like. I mean, this is like feeding the starving a can of puss and venomn.

    When will Obama just come clean and show his real hate for us? We as a community [i.e., emotionally arrested community] demand it! We demand more attention! Now Dammit! Screw healthcare reform, terrorism, our the well being of our economy! We want more us, now! now! now!


    Posted by: rob adamds | Aug 12, 2009 3:11:21 PM

  6. Do PBO & the White House senior staff really equate this gesture with appeasement? As IF ... don't give me a medal but keep me as a second-class citizen! ENOUGH is ENOUGH! The time is NOW to end government sactioned bigotry!

    Posted by: Stormz | Aug 12, 2009 3:18:10 PM

  7. "He shouldn't bother. He'd get less criticism."

    Posted by: Wes | Aug 12, 2009 3:08:47 PM

    Hey Wes. To about 60% of the gay community this is great news. The rest of the gay community consists of Hillaryites who'll never get over the lost, gay republicans, most of which have a political masochistic fetish, general racists, people so far to the left that they'd make Tony Kushner blush, and people who just have an irrational fear of Obama the man.

    Posted by: Bull | Aug 12, 2009 3:26:57 PM

  8. @ FACE,
    I thought pretty much the same thing at first, but Milk was pretty shrewd and that got me wondering whether he'd see some kind of opportunity in going.

    @ ROB
    Did your parents have any kids that lived?

    Posted by: MikeMick | Aug 12, 2009 3:27:20 PM

  9. Did Courage in the Gay Rights Movement die with Harvey Milk?

    Its a shame that on this day of all days, that the cowards at EQCA decide to assert that the "time is not right" to fight for gay rights. If the "A" Gay groups of Milk's time had won out he would never have run for SF Supervisor and it would probably still be illegal to be a gay schoolteacher in California.

    Think i'm being melodramatic? Hes one man who DID make a difference. He encouraged all of us, He led us, and he MADE things happen. HE did not wait for the Geoff Kors, Marc Solomon, Joe Solomnese's of the world to approve of what he did.

    Those who tell us to wait to fight for our rights are traitors to what was started by Harvey milk and his friends. It is not a different time, it is not a different situation, it is the same now as it was then, except that we don't have a leader with the vision or courage to change the world.

    Be proud of Harvey Milk, Mourn for Harvey Milk, and Pray that we find a worthy successor to his dream, passion, and courage.

    Posted by: Robert Rhea | Aug 12, 2009 3:47:52 PM

  10. 1. Always accept a compliment or other positive gesture graciously. Don't bitch.

    2. Work aggressively for positive change. Don't whine.

    3. Use #1 as part of #2. Don't be a asshole.

    This is something anyone who wants to work effective in any field has to master.

    In politics, when someone offers you his right hand, you shake it while you keep an eye on his left. It doesn't matter if you regard his gesture as hypocritical or empty - to treat everyone with courtesy is a mark of character - yours. Saying "fuck you" in response to "thank you" says a lot about you, and nothing about the person you're insulting.

    As a community, LGBTQ people have a lot to learn about honoring our enemies by opposing them. Lesson 1: failure to honor your opponent guarantees you will become him.

    Posted by: Bryan | Aug 12, 2009 3:58:29 PM

  11. @Bryan... Well said.

    Posted by: rob adamds | Aug 12, 2009 4:14:30 PM

  12. @ Bryan

    Finally a gay person who is NOT some bitter racist self-righteous arrogant fag.

    You actually get it and that was very well said. THANK YOU

    Posted by: Rocky | Aug 12, 2009 4:36:35 PM

  13. Right on, Bryan. Right on.

    Posted by: The Milkman | Aug 12, 2009 4:46:26 PM

  14. Thanks, Bryan, for that craftier way to oppose the Obama types. But I still say don't forget the D.C. march.

    Posted by: Let'sFaceIt | Aug 12, 2009 4:52:57 PM

  15. i concur with the selection of all those people, except for sandra day o'conner. why the hell is she doing in that mix? because of her we had 8 years of cheney/bush.

    Posted by: nic | Aug 12, 2009 4:56:54 PM

  16. i concur with the selection of all those people, except for sandra day o'conner. why the hell is she in that mix? because of her, we had 8 years of cheney/bush.

    Posted by: nic | Aug 12, 2009 4:59:00 PM


    And folks, please do participate in the March in October. It's not about thousands upon thousands making noise, it's about coming together as a community to work with our government to end this madness of 2nd class citizenship.

    PLEASE, if you want to know more just drop me an email. I've got 13 subcommittees I'm putting together to make sure the National Equality March reflects the community as a whole. I need your help and gladly welcome your questions and comments. Just be nice, ok? ;-)

    (And NO the March is NOT a partisan affair, that's just my PERSONAL email.)

    Thanks! See you in Washington!

    Posted by: Derek Washington | Aug 12, 2009 5:35:12 PM

  18. This is a joke. Maybe when Obama does something of any real substance, we'll be less cynical. Medals and pretty words don't equal full equality.

    Posted by: DR | Aug 12, 2009 5:52:18 PM

  19. The joke is on ROCKY and the always delusional DEREK WASHINGTON.

    Obama clearly stated "God is in the mix" on LOGO, of all places. He does not believe in equality for GLBT citizens. It's on record. I voted for him; the lesser of the two evils. However, I didn't have to wake up to smell the coffee. It was thrown in my face on day one.

    Posted by: JohnInManhattan | Aug 12, 2009 6:12:59 PM

  20. Some of us are capable of holding more than one thought at the same time.

    This IS a good thing, for in recognizing the achievements of a gay man it works against the demonization of gays generally.

    It is ALSO transparently another cynical "get off my back" play by Obama by definition of the fact that he chose to give it to Milk whose accomplishments, as great as they were, pale next to those of movement patriarch Frank Kameny, who among many other contrasts, was picketing outside the White House for gay rights in 1965 when Harvey was still entirely publicly closeted and disappointed that the guy living inside the White House wasn't then Right Wing extremist Barry Goldwater.

    Some of you may never have heard of Kameny, but Obama has hosted him, along with other gays, twice at the White House already, so there's no, "Ooops, I didn't know" excuse.

    At the White House gay tea, Obama called him a "civil rights pioneer" and said, "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."

    Why the "came later" choice with no national achievements like Kameny's being one of those who forced the American Psychiatric Assocation to remove gays from their manual of mental illnesses? Because Kameny didn't get killed so he didn't have a movie made about him that got a lot of buzz and some Oscars, and most gays are too ignorant of our history, too lazy to know any better. Giving the medal to Milk over Kameny is like trying to be seen with the most popular kids in school; the equivalent of trying to be more popular by wearing designer jeans labeled Calvin er Harvey Milk.

    Yet it's not about Barry trying to be more cool, it's about is ongoing need to try to tranquilize the gays still rightfully outraged because the most he's done since taking office is work against our rights rather than for them.

    Class, can you say, "defending DOMA and DADT in court while continuing to discharge gays day after day after day"?

    That's why even if it had been given to Kameny, the honor would have been all HIS, just as it today is entirely MILK's....NOT Obama's for an action which is no more admirable than had Lincoln given an award to Frederick Douglas or Harriet Tubman for fighting slavery while still enforcing slavery.

    That he could also try to score some points off of Billie Jean's having come out makes no difference. She was primarily there for the obligatory sports category and for well-deserved recognition for fighting for gender equality.

    Bottomline: both Milk and King got "Massa's Medal of NONfreedom."

    Finally, more coexisting thoughts: Milk may well have graciously accepted the medal were he still living, but he damn sure would have followed it up somewhere, sometime today with a blistering condemnation of the "separate but equal" two-faced man who gave it to him.

    Posted by: Michael @ | Aug 12, 2009 6:21:24 PM

  21. I'm tired of the Obama haters. I'm happy about President Obama taking time to honor civil rights hero, Harvey Milk. This would have never happened in a Bush or McCain administration. THANK YOU PRESIDENT OBAMA! I LOVE YOU!!!!

    Posted by: OnyxStud | Aug 12, 2009 6:21:59 PM

  22. When has anyone GLBTT been feted with such a distinctive honor so publicly and at the WH??

    While the only issue i have is the claim of "His Tragic Death" it should have stated "His Assassination", for in fact his death was tragic but still he was Assassinated for who and what he was!!!

    The wingnuts are already making noise about this Award honoring a man for his Sexual habits alone, Jeebus forbid that they recognize what he did for the GLBTT communities at large !!

    Posted by: alex in boston | Aug 12, 2009 6:24:45 PM

  23. @OnyxStud

    Whether or not this would have happened under the Bush administration is a non-issue thrown about by the Obama-lovers to distract folks from the facts. Great, he gave Harvey Milk and Billie Jean King an award. Whoopie.

    Since his oath of office, three hundred gay men and lesbians have lost their military careers, he refuses to use his executive power to put an end to discharges under DADT, has publicly said that he will not support full marriage equality, and has proven time and time again that he is inclined to give us pretty words but no actions.

    He's a homophobe wearing the President's clothes.

    Posted by: DR | Aug 12, 2009 7:03:06 PM

  24. johninmanhattan: Because I am actually working for my community, I am "delusional"?

    Because I've been up since 6am so that I could talk to the East Coast to get people on board for the National Equality March, I'm "delusional"?

    Because I spend 75% of every day of my life trying to empower my LGBT community, I'm "delusional"?

    Because I believe in my country and the mechanisms our founding fathers provided in the U.S. constitution, I'm "delusional"?

    Because I actually try to make the world a better place for LGBT citizens, I'm "delusional"?

    Because I believe with all my heart that President will do the right because it is right ,or, because we make him, I'm "delusional"?

    Hey Bro, I'll take "delusional" over bitter and whiny and/or lazy anyday.


    Derek "Proud To Be Delusional" Washington

    Posted by: Derek Washington | Aug 12, 2009 7:14:51 PM

  25. Derek Washington is anything but delusional.

    Posted by: JT | Aug 12, 2009 8:04:01 PM

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