More than ‘respect’: Bill introduced to give Aretha Congressional accolades

Lawmakers are moving to give the Queen of Soul a posthumous honor to add to the long list

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On Tuesday, a group of lawmakers introduced legislation to posthumously award the Congressional Gold Medal to Aretha Franklin for her contribution to arts and culture. 

The Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom are the highest civilian honors in the U.S. government, noted. The last entertainer to be honored was Frank Sinatra in 1997. 

Franklin, who died August 16 at age 76 after a battle with pancreatic cancer, is no stranger to such high regard for her work. In 1994 she was given a Kennedy Center Honor; has received NAACP Image, Hall of Fame and Vanguard Awards; and 18 Grammy awards, plus 26 nominations.

READ MORE: Click here to see all of theGrio’s coverage of the wake of Aretha Franklin’s passing

According to VarietySen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) are among the co-sponsors of the legislation in the Senate, while Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.) and Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) are co-sponsors in the House.

Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow, Democratic senators from Franklin’s home state of Michigan, also are co-sponsors, according to the report. 

In a statement, Harris said Franklin “was simply a legend. Her work and impact will be felt for generations to come, and it’s long past time Congress honor her with the Congressional Gold Medal.”

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She added, “from listening to ‘Mary Don’t You Weep,’ to standing in the living room dancing to ‘Rock Steady’ over and over again, to hearing from the Queen herself how lucky I was to be young, gifted, and black — Aretha’s songs were the soundtrack of my childhood.”

Hatch said Franklin “brought light, laughter, and love to all who would hear. I’m grateful to play a small role in honoring the life of this remarkable artist.”

“Aretha Franklin was soul personified and she gave us the gift of her voice, her truth and her unapologetic passion to demand compassion, love and R-E-S-P-E-C-T for women everywhere,” Lawrence said in a statement, adding, “An iconic entertainer, powerful civil rights leader, history maker and a beautiful spirit I was privileged to call friend; we honor this Detroit native, the true Queen of Soul. She will be dearly missed, never forgotten and always treasured.”

The most recent Congressional Gold Medal was awarded to former Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan. earlier this year.

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