In August of 2009 President Barack Obama posthumously awarded the Mayor of Castro Street, Harvey Milk, the highest honor any civilian can receive from these United States-the coveted Medal of Freedom.
Stuart Milk, Harvey’s nephew and head of the international human rights focused, Harvey Milk Foundation, accepted the medal on behalf of his family and Uncle.
Bestowing the award the President said:
“Harvey Bernard Milk dedicated his life to shattering boundaries and challenging assumptions. As one of the first openly gay elected officials in this country, he changed the landscape of opportunity for the nation’s gay community. Throughout his life, he fought discrimination with visionary courage and conviction. Before his tragic death in 1978, he wisely noted, “Hope will never be silent,” and called upon Americans to stay true to the guiding principles of equality and justice for all. Harvey Milk’s voice will forever echo in the hearts of all those who carry forward his timeless message.”
In 2011 the White House announced that they were creating the Harvey Milk Champions of Change Award to be given out annually to deserving LGBT elected or appointed government officials who strive to carry on the legacy of Harvey Milk. Qualified individuals who have demonstrated a strong commitment to both equality and public service. These awards are presented by the President to individuals on Harvey Milk’s birthday, May 22, at the White House.
Nominations for this honor are derived from people around the country submitting via emailing their suggestions directly to the White House. Final selections of honorees fell to the POTUS and his staff.
This year 10 deserving LGBT Americans will receive this accolade. They come from seven different states and both major political parties. Though none are from San Francisco three are from Harvey’s beloved adopted state of California. They are:
- State Senator, Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens); In 2012, Lara, a native of East LA, became the first openly gay person of color elected to the CA. State Senate.
- Mayor Michael A. Gin (R-Redondo Beach); the first out Chinese-American mayor ever elected to office.
- CA. State Sec. of Natural Resources, John Laird (Santa Cruz); He has devoted nearly four decades to service to the State has broken down multiple barriers including in 1983 being the first openly Gay mayor and one of the CA’s first openly Gay elected official.
“The fact that three Californians are being honored is telling of the essential role that California plays in advancing equality,” Lara said.
You can watch the presentation live from the White House today at noon by clicking here.