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Obama Snubs LGBT Civil Rights Pioneer Frank Kameny, Not Awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom

Yesterday, President Barack Obama named thirteen recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  The Medal of Freedom is the Nation’s highest civilian honor given to individuals who have made great contributions to the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.

This years recipients included Madeleine Albright, John Doar, Bob Dylan, John Glenn, John Paul Stevens, and Dolores Huerta among others.   But conspicuously absent from this years awards was a posthumous to LGBT Civil Rights hero Frank Kameny who passed away earlier this year.

Frank Kameny, along with Harvey Milk  is “one of the most significant figures’ in the American LGBT civil rights movement history.   In 1957, Kameny was dismissed from his position as an astronomer in the Army Map Service in Washington, D.C. because of his homosexuality, leading him to begin “a Herculean struggle with the American establishment” that would “spearhead a new period of militancy in the homosexual rights movement of the early 1960s”.  Kameny later went on to co-founded the Mattachine Society of Washington, DC, became the first openly gay candidate for the United States Congress in 1973, and stayed actively involved and at the forefront of the LGBT civil rights movement until his death last year on October 11, 2011 at age 86.

From Michael Petrelis at The Petrelis Files:

In death, I thought gay pioneer Frank Kameny would be palatable to President Obama when deciding this year’s Medal of Freedom recipients. Well, our Less-than-Fierce Advocate-in-Chief announced the latest batch of awardees yesterday and Kameny’s name was omitted.

My thinking was that the White House would not risk giving this gay icon the award while he was alive, because he might go off-script at the reception and ceremony for the  honorees and say something to anger the administration, but once he had passed on Obama would give him this award. I was wrong.

Our lame Democratic Party gay leadership at the Human Rights Campaign issued a release lauding Obama choosing longtime gay ally and labor advocate Dolores Huerta as a recipient, and failed to express disappointment that Kameny was not posthumously selected along with Huerta. Foolish of me to even think HRC could praise the president, salute Huerta and advocate for Kameny getting the Medal of Freedom if Obama is reelected.

Not only is it a shame Obama didn’t award Kameny the Medal of Freedom in 2012, it’s equally troubling that HRC and AFER expended no energy and resources fiercely advocating on Kameny’s behalf.

Kameny and his legacy more than deserve to be recognized and included in Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients.

But it seems that in an election year not only is it to risky to sign an executive order against LGBT discrimination in the workplace.  But its even too “controversial” to award one of the most prolific LGBT rights pioneers this country has even seen a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Democratic cowardice at its best, once again.

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Will Kohler

Will Kohler is a noted LGBT historian, journalist and owner of Back2Stonewall.com. A longtime gay activist, Will fought on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic with ACT-UP and continues fighting today for LGBT acceptance and full equality. Will’s work has been referenced in notable media venues as MSNBC and BBC News, The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, Hollywood Reporter, and Raw Story,

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