Daniel Hernandez is a hero. The 20 year old gay intern to Gabriel Gifford with only five days on the job saved Gabrielle Giffords’life. Daniel ran towards the shots, pressed a Safeway workers’ aprons against the Gabrielle’s head wound , and held her hands as the stretcher holding Gabrielle was loaded into the ambulance. Daniel is being hailed and recognized as a hero and rightfully so. But still negative comments about his sexuality flood comment sections across the Internet universe by hateful bigots.
An opinion piece in the LA Times this morning reminds us of another heroic gay man named Oliver Sipple who 35 years ago, on Sept. 22, 1975, as President Gerald Ford was leaving the hotel thwarted an assassination attempt of Ford by Charles Manson follower Sara Jane Moore who was standing next to Sipple raised a .38-caliber pistol and aimed it at the President Ford, fired one shot and missed, before Sipple grabbed her arm and took her down.
But 1975 was a different time and while the news coverage changed Sipple’s life, and not for the better
Oliver “Billy” W. Sipple (November 20, 1941–February 2, 1989) was a decorated US Marine and Vietnam War veteran. Though he was known to be gay among members of the gay community, and had even participated in Gay Pride events, Sipple’s sexual orientation was a secret from his family. He asked the press to keep his sexuality off the record, making it clear that neither his mother nor his employer. later Herb Caen, a columnist at The San Francisco Chronicle, exposed Sipple as a gay man and a friend of Harvey Milk’s. Sipple was besieged by reporters, as was his family. His mother, a staunch Baptist in Detroit, refused to speak to him even though he saved the Presidents life.
Havey Milk once opined that Sipple’s sexuality got him only a letter of thanks from Ford, rather than an invitation to the White House. Ford disputed the claim in 2001 that Sipple was treated differently because of his sexual orientation, saying, “As far as I was concerned, I had done the right thing and the matter was ended.
The saddest part about the correlation of these two men, these two gay heroes is that even though 35 years have passed that negative comments are still being made about orientation of Hernandez and even Sipple to this day despite the selfless acts that they performed for another human being and their country is abhorrent and just proves how far we have really not come in 35 years.
There are many gay heroes throughout history. Hernandez, Sipple, and let us not forget Mark Bingham and many more
It is up to us to recognize them, remember them, honor them, and defend them until such time as equality is achieved and bigotry is thwarted.