Today, the White House announced the recipients of the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor. The list of 16 exemplary individuals includes Harvey Milk, awarded the medal posthumously, and tennis legend and gender equity champion Billie Jean King. This marks the first time the Medal of Freedom has been awarded to openly gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender individuals. This is a remarkable honor and recognition of two of our community’s greatest heroes. I certainly am grateful to President Obama for acknowledging Harvey and Billie Jean among the 16 powerful, diverse, and outstanding men and women whose company they join.
Hopefully, today marks the beginning of the end of such honors being regarded as unprecedented. In the coming years when openly LGBT individuals are honored with the Medal of Freedom, we hope the announcement is unremarkable—except, of course, for the remarkable nature of the honor itself. And in that hope lies the real “Gay Agenda.” It is my great wish that the place of LGBT folks in the civil and cultural life of this nation will become routine and commonplace. While an honor like the Medal of Freedom will be worth celebration and reflection, it will not be historic or rare. We are everywhere, but our presence has been too often stifled, ignored, or shamed into silence.
The “Gay Agenda” includes Medals of Freedom, but more than that, it means that we are simply an acknowledged and accepted part of the rich and varied fabric of our country. It means that when John marries his boyfriend Lawrence, his co-workers at the software company all go in on the perfect wedding gift. When Marjorie and Josie and their daughters come back from a summer vacation, they share their pictures with the neighbors over a block-party BBQ. It means that when a new school year starts, of the millions of kids heading back to classes, a good number will be coming from homes with two moms or two dads or a transgender parent—and that is just fine. In short, it means a day when LGBT people just are. Yes, we contribute some very special and fabulous elements to the culture, but day in and day out, no one raises an eyebrow, or hyperventilates, or tells jokes about us, or worries about their kids playing with our kids, or ever attacks, harms, disparages, or fears us.
I know that day is still some ways off. So in the meantime, I am grateful to the Obama Administration for acknowledging the amazing contributions of Harvey Milk and Billie Jean King with this unprecedented honor and for accelerating the moment when it won’t be such a big deal. But today it is. Congratulations.