Harvey Milk Given Highest Civilian Honor

President Barack Obama posthumously awards former San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk a Presidential Medal of Freedom

By Jackson West
|  Thursday, Jul 30, 2009  |  Updated 12:30 PM PDT
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Harvey Milk Given Highest Civilian Honor

Daniel Nicoletta

Milk, the first openly-gay American to be elected to office, at the City Hall desk of fellow murder victim Mayor George Moscone.

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Former San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk was among 16 Americans awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama today.

Milk was the first openly-gay man elected to public office in a major city, but served less than two years before being assassinated by colleague Dan White in San Francisco City Hall along with then-Mayor George Moscone.

Fellow honorees at today's ceremony included tennis star Billy Jean King, who helped break down gender barriers by defeating champion men's player Bobby Riggs in a match, and Nobel Peace Prize honoree Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Obama praised Milk for asking gays and lesbians to live openly because, "coming out was the only way they could change society and achieve social equality."

However, Obama commands coming out in the military is still grounds for discharge and the president has not made social equality in the form of supporting equal marriage rights for same-sex couples a priority.

In handing out the medal and honoring the memory and legacy of this San Francisco hero, the White House at least illustrates how far the country still has to go to live up to Milk's standards.

Jackson West hopes it doesn't bother Harvey's ghost too much that right-wing ideologue Jack Kemp was honored on the same day.

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