LGBT Leaders, Lawmakers Remember Frank Kameny
October 12 2011 2:58 PM ET
Political leaders and LGBT advocacy groups are mourning the loss of Franklin E. Kameny, a singular force in the gay and lesbian rights movement who was willing to stand up publicly at a time when few others dared do so.
Kameny was found dead Tuesday at his home in Washington, D.C. He was 86.
Founder of the Mattachine Society of Washington, Kameny, an astronomer with a Ph.D. from Harvard who worked for the Army Map Service, had vigorously fought his dismissal in 1957. “Information has come to the attention of the U.S. Civil Service Commission that you are a homosexual,” government investigators charged in their interrogation of Kameny. “What comment, if any, do you care to make?”
Kameny refused to discuss his personal life and challenged his subsequent termination in court. He eventually penned his own appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that the discrimination faced by him and thousands of other federal employees forced out of their jobs during the McCarthy era was “no less illegal and no less odious than discrimination based upon religious or racial grounds.”
Kameny countered the unfounded notion that gay people are inherently pathological with the simple, brilliant slogan, "Gay is Good."
"As the history books are written on the LGBT movement, no doubt Frank's life will serve as an inspiration to those who will never have the honor of meeting him, but who embody the very future he knew would come true one day,” National Gay and Lesbian Task Force executive director Rea Carey said.
In 2009, Kameny received a formal apology from the Office of Personnel Management for being fired because of his sexual orientation. He was also honored by the Obama Administration when the president signed a policy to extend benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees.
“He turned his personal story of discrimination into action, his encounter with prejudice into determination,” House minority leader Nancy Pelosi said in a Wednesday statement. “Through his work, he became a revered figure in the national LGBT movement; through his achievements, America became a more equal, more compassionate nation."
A memorial service is being tentatively planned for mid-November, according to Bob Witeck, who aided in efforts to have Kameny's large collection of papers and personal effects installed in the Library of Congress.
Below, statements from LGBT leaders on Kameny’s passing as well as video of the gay rights leader from an LGBT Pride Month event in June:
Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign:
“Frank Kameny led an extraordinary life marked by heroic activism that set a path for the modern LGBT civil rights movement. From his early days fighting institutionalized discrimination in the federal workforce, Dr. Kameny taught us all that 'Gay is Good.' As we say goodbye to this trailblazer on National Coming Out Day, we remember the remarkable power we all have to change the world by living our lives like Frank — openly, honestly, and authentically.”
Mike Thompson, acting president of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation:
"Frank Kameny sparked national change and set the example for gay and lesbian Americans to live their lives openly and proudly. He taught us the power that our visibility and stories have in changing hearts and minds. Today on National Coming Out Day, we honor Frank's legacy not only by remembering this pioneer, but by continuing his work to speak out and share our own stories."
Chad Griffin, board president of the American Foundation for Equal Rights:
"America has lost a hero today. Out and proud, Frank Kameny was fighting for equality long before the rest of us knew we could. Because there was one Frank Kameny, trailblazing and honest enough to speak out 50 years ago, there are now millions of Americans, coming out, speaking out, and fighting for their basic civil rights. His is a legacy of bravery and tremendous impact and will live on in the hearts and minds of every American who values equality and justice."
Michelle Garcia contributed reporting.
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