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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

White House recognizes State Rep. Simone Bell as a 'Harvey Milk Champion of Change'

State Rep. Simone Bell, D-Atlanta
State Rep. Simone Bell, D-Atlanta, will be honored by the White House this afternoon as a "Harvey Milk Champion of Change."

The award, which was established two year ago to honor the San Francisco elected official who was assassinated in 1978, recognizes openly gay elected and appointed public officials who have worked to "empower and inspire members of their communities."

Bell, who says she received multiple anonymous nominations for the award, became the country's first openly gay African-American state lawmaker after winning a special election in 2009.

"When I first ran for office I couldn't bring myself to watch the Harvey Milk Story. It was too overwhelming. Today, I wear his pin on my lapel," Bell said in a Facebook post.

Last November, Bell bested former state Rep. Ralph Long, D-Atlanta, after the two colleagues' districts were drawn together by Republicans. She eventually won and championed some LGBT causes during the 2013 legislative session, including co-sponsoring a bill to prevent anti-gay private schools from receiving public funding.

The Atlanta Democrat will be honored alongside nine other officials including Minnesota state Rep. Karen Clark, Redondo Beach, Calif., Mayor Mike Gin, Cincinnati Councilman Chris Seelbach, and Colorado Sen. Pat Steadman. You can watch the ceremony live at 3 p.m. this afternoon.

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