President Barack Obama will award the
Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously to Dr. Sally Ride and
Bayard Rustin on November 20.
Ride and Rustin are among the 16 people
the president will recognize with the highest honor the nation can
bestow on a civilian.
Ride, the first American woman in
space, passed away last July at the age of 61 after losing a
prolonged 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer. She also held the
distinction of being the youngest American in space and the first
lesbian, though she never spoke about her private life in public.
Rustin will also receive his medal
Rustin was a leading activist of the
early civil rights movement. He helped initiate a 1947 Freedom Ride
challenging racial segregation on interstate buses and was the main
organizer of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. He
was also gay.
Chad Griffin, president of the Human
Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation's largest LGBT rights advocate,
said Rustin's contributions to the civil rights movement “remain
paramount to its successes to this day.”
“His role in the fight for civil
rights of African-Americans is all the more admirable because he made
it as a gay man, experiencing prejudice not just because of his race,
but because of his sexual orientation as well,” Griffin