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Will Billie Jean King receive the Congressional Gold Medal?

Billie Jean King Library

Billie Jean King holds her Bobblehead at Dodger Stadium on May 31, 2019 during the team’s LGBT Nite. Photo:Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

A Long Beach Congressman plans to introduce legislation that would bestow Billie Jean King with one of the nation’s highest civilian honors.

Democratic Rep. Alan Lowenthal hopes to introduce the Billie Jean King Congressional Gold Medal Act within five months, said spokesman Keith Higginbotham.

“The timing of the (bill’s) introduction is uncertain, but hopefully this year,” Higginbotham said.

Lowenthal represents Long Beach, Lakewood, Signal Hill and neighboring portions of Orange County in the 47th District.

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Lowenthal and Rep. Joe Crowley, D-New York, introduced a similar bill, H. R. 5001, in 2018, but it died during that Congressional session.

Because the House of Representatives is controlled by the Democrats, the Republicans were the majority last session, the bill should have a better chance of being passed.

Billie Jean King

King — an LGBTQ activist, women’s sports pioneer, and Long Beach native —  would receive the Congressional Gold Medal for “her vast achievements and contributions to athletics, women’s rights, the LGBT community, and American culture,” according to a press statement last year when Lowenthal and Crowley introduced the bill.

King was a fierce advocate for Title IX of the Civil Rights Act. It  was signed into law in 1972. That portion outlaws sex discrimination in all federally funded school programs, including sports.

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Congressional Gold Medal

The Congressional Gold Medal is considered one of the highest civilian honors.

Since the American Revolution, Congress has commissioned gold medals as its highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions. Each medal honors a particular individual, institution, or event.

Medal recipients

Although the first recipients included citizens who participated in the American Revolution, the War of 1812, and the Mexican War, Congress broadened the scope of the medal to include actors, authors, musicians, pioneers in aeronautics and space, notables in science and medicine, athletes, humanitarians, and public servants.

The Congressional Gold Medal has been awarded to a range of recipients, from George Washington and Rosa Parks to Frank Sinatra and former Sen. Bob Dole.

For a person to receive the Congressional Gold Medal, two-thirds of the House and 67 senators must support the bill.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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