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Celebrating Canada's 2SLGBTQI+ Communities

FLASHBACK: Harvey Milk Posthumously Awarded The Medal Of Freedom (August 12, 2009)

August 12, 2009: Today in LGBTQ+ history…

On August 12, 2009, US President Barack Obama bestowed slain gay rights icon Harvey Milk with a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honour.

At the time, the White House said Milk and the other honorees chosen by the president that year were “chosen for their work as agents of change.… They have blazed trails and broken down barriers.”

Milk’s award was accepted by his nephew, Stuart Milk.

“The recipients of the Medal of Freedom did not set out to win this or any other award. They did not set out in pursuit of glory or fame or riches,” Obama said at the 2009 ceremony in the East Room of the White House. “Rather, they set out, guided by passion, committed to hard work, aided by persistence, often with few advantages but the gifts, grace and good name God gave them.”

Milk was a gay rights pioneer who is remembered for his legacy of fighting for LGBTQ+ equality. On November 27, 1978 – just one year after becoming California’s first openly gay elected official – he was assassinated by a fellow city supervisor who had recently resigned. Milk was just 48.

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