milk_freedommedalThe Victory Fund has learned President Barack Obama plans to award America’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, to Harvey Milk, one of the country’s first openly gay elected officials. The award will be accepted at a White House ceremony August 12 by Stuart Milk, the nephew of the late San Francisco Supervisor and civil rights activist.

“We are thrilled President Obama is honoring Harvey Milk with the Medal of Freedom. He’s an American hero and trailblazer whose election more than 30 years ago triggered a political awakening that inspires us still today. This recognition sends an important message about how critical political leadership will be in making all Americans equal in the eyes of the law,” said Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Victory Fund.

Stuart Milk echoed Wolfe’s praise, saying, “The President’s action today touches the core of our very human hearts and my uncle would be so proud of this high honor.  His election was, for him, a beginning–a chance to make real change. That change is happening, but we still have so far to go.  I hope this recognition inspires LGBT Americans everywhere to heed Harvey’s call to run for office, to serve openly, to live proudly with authenticity and to demand the equality that we all deserve.”

American tennis great Billie Jean King, who is openly lesbian, and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, who has championed LGBT equality throughout his political career, also will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom at the August 12 ceremony. Kennedy was honored by the Victory Fund in 2004 with its Oates-Shrum Leadership Award in recognition of his tireless work on behalf of LGBT Americans.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is an award created to honor especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, or world peace, or cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.