Friday, November 22, 2013

CELEBRITY FRIDAY: Partners of Bayard Rustin and Sally Ride Attend WH Award Ceremony

Bayard Rustin was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom this week, and Walter Naegle, Rustin's life partner was in attendance. The award is the nation's highest civilian award and of the 16 recipients this year (which included Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey and Gloria Steinem) two of them were representatives of the LGBT community, Rustin and Sally Ride. Ride's life partner Tam O'Shaughnessy also attended the ceremony.

Metro Weekly reports:
 "As the first American woman in space, Sally didn't just break the stratospheric glass ceiling, she blasted through it," Obama said of Ride. "And when she came back to Earth, she devoted her life to helping girls excel in fields like math, science and engineering. 'Young girls need to see role models,' she said, 'you can't be what you can't see.' Today, our daughters -- including Malia and Sasha -- can set their sights a little bit higher because Sally Ride showed them the way."

Ride, who became the first American woman to travel to space in 1983, died in July 2012 after a 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer. Ride devoted much of her life to advancing science education and the U.S. space program.

For Rustin, who died in 1987, Obama said final recognition for his role in the civil rights movement was part of a broader struggle for equality. 

"For decades, this great leader, often at Dr. King's side, was denied his rightful place in history because he was openly gay," Obama said. "No medal can change that, but today, we honor Bayard Rustin's memory by taking our place in his march towards true equality, no matter who we are or who we love." 

Rustin was an advisor to Martin Luther King Jr., helped organize the early "freedom rides" and played a key role in organizing the 1963 March on Washington.


Naegle and O'Shaughnessy, who had never met before, were alphabetically seated next to each other during the ceremony presenting a resonant image. Both said they believed their presence as the gay partners of two Americans being awarded the nation's highest civilian honor would not go unnoticed.

"I think having Walter and me onstage for our partners sends a huge message to the world and that feels good," O'Shaughnessy said.
It's nice to see that members of the LGBT community are being recognized at the highest level, now perhaps soon we can start recognizing people before they die. People like Mary Bonauto, Larry Kramer and Phill Wilson would be on my short list of future possibilities.

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