Harvey Milk is among 16 recipients to receive the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom. According to the White House blog, the President praised the recipients for breaking down barriers and lifting up their fellow citizens.
“These outstanding men and women represent an incredible diversity of backgrounds. Yet they share one overarching trait: Each has been an agent of change,” Obama said. “Each saw an imperfect world and set about improving it, often overcoming great obstacles along the way.”
According to the announcement, Milk “encouraged LGBT citizens to live their lives openly.”
The list of recipients also includes lesbian tennis player Billie Jean King, for “championing gender equality issues not only in sports, but in all aspects of life,” and Senator Edward Kennedy, a supporter of gay rights.
“Their relentless devotion to breaking down barriers and lifting up their fellow citizens sets a standard to which we all should strive,” said Obama. “It is my great honor to award them the Medal of Freedom.”
“We applaud and cheer that Harvey Milk and Billie Jean King’s dedication to freedom and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and for women and girls is at last being recognized with our country’s highest civilian honor,” said Rea Carey, Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. “They are trailblazers whose courage, commitment and perseverance have brought our country to a better place. How utterly appropriate that they will receive an award named the ‘Medal of Freedom.’
President Obama will present the awards at a ceremony on Aug. 12.