Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Harvey Milk Awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom

supervisormilk1Washington, DC – Jennifer Vanesco of 365gay.com reports that Harvey Milk, slain San Francisco City Supervisor, will be among 16 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom on August 12, according to the White House.  Milk, gay human rights icon, was shot to death by disgruntled former city supervisor Dan White along with San Francisco Mayor George Moscone on November 27, 1978. Milk will be recognized along with Billie Jean King, lesbian tennis great, and a stellar list of others whom the White House calls “agents of change”: Nancy Goodman Brinker, the founder of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the world’s leading breast cancer awareness organization; Stephen Hawking, the internationally-recognized theoretical physicist; Sen. Edward M. Kennedy; Desmund Tutu; Chita Rivera; Mary Robinson, the former President of Ireland; and Sidney Poitier.  Harvey Milk’s profile has risen steadily in the nation since the release of the major motion picture, Milk, directed by gay film maker Gus Van Zandt, and written by gay screen play author Dustin Lance Black.  The timing of the film’s release, during the heat of the marriage equality battle in California over Proposition 8, introduced Milk to a whole new generation of emerging LGBT human rights Presidential-medal-of-freedomadvocates.  Milk’s refusal to “blend in,” his demand that gay people come out openly as a tool of social change, and his willingness to hold accommodationist gay and lesbian leaders as well as straight lawmakers accountable to the gay liberation movement has inspired street activism today on a scale not seen since the 1980s protests over the AIDS crisis during the Reagan Administration.  Now, Cleve Jones, a close associate of Milk’s who is also portrayed in the film, is organizing a national LGBT march on Washington, set for October 10-11, 2009, the first major queer march on the nation’s capitol since 1993.   The Presidential Medal of Freedom, along with the Congressional Gold Medal, are the highest awards that may be given to a civilian in the United States of America.  It is awarded to persons who in the estimation of the President 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.”  Milk will be the first victim of an anti-LGBT hate crime murder to be awarded this honor, a significant gesture on President Obama’s part as the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act moves toward enactment into law this fall.

July 30, 2009 - Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, California, gay men, Hate Crimes, Lesbian women, Marriage Equality, Matthew Shepard Act, Media Issues, Politics, Social Justice Advocacy, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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