USA: IGLHRC Congratulates Presidential Medal of Freedom Winners

On August 12, 2009, President Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to 16 honorees. Among the distinguished group recognized for being “agents of change” were many pioneers of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) human rights, including IGLHRC Outspoken Award winners, Mary Robinson and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Mary Robinson has helped advance recognition of the human rights of LGBT people in her capacity as President of Ireland and as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. She has been unwavering in her passionate call to end torture, persecution, and discrimination against LGBT people globally. She is a signatory to the Yogyakarta Principles on the application of international human rights law in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity, and has spoken in support of them at the United Nations. Robinson was honored with IGLHRC’s first Outspoken Award in 2005.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize winner who was a leading moral voice in the crusade for racial justice and Chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, has persistently challenged discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and vigorously criticized segments of the church for its homophobia. Archbishop Tutu was honored with IGLHRC’s second Outspoken Award in 2008.

Also honored by the President were Billie Jean King, the tennis champion and proponent of equal rights for women and LGBT people, Reverend Joseph Lowery, who co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and who has spoken out for LGBT inclusion in civil rights and the United Methodist Church. Harvey Milk, an openly gay elected San Francisco city supervisor and fervent LGBT activist, was honored posthumously.

IGLHRC would like to congratulate all the winners and would like to commend President Obama for honoring these individuals who have had the courage to stand up for the civil and human rights of all people, regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

The other medal winners were Nancy Goodman Brinker, Pedro José Greer, Jr., Stephen Hawking, Jack Kemp, Sen. Edward Kennedy, Joe Medicine Crow – High Bird, Sandra Day O’Connor, Sidney Poitier, Chita Rivera, Janet Davison Rowley, Muhammad Yunus.