Google honored LGBTQ+ rights activist Frank Kameny with a Doodle today in celebration of Pride Month. The image features a cartoon version of Kameny among flowering trees with a flower lei, based on an image of him at a Pride in 2010. The gay military veteran and astronomer is known as one of the early pioneers of the LGBTQ+ rights movement in the U.S.
Kameny was born in Queens, N.Y., on May 21, 1925. He studied physics at Queens College, enrolling in the college at 15. When the U.S. entered World War II, Kameny was drafted. In order to serve, he lied about his sexuality.
“They asked,” Kameny said in 2011, according to Google. “I lied and didn’t tell — although as a healthy teenager, I can assure you, there were things to tell.”
Returning to the U.S. after seeing combat in Europe, Kameny earned his doctorate in astronomy from Harvard University. His research focused on the colors of variable stars and coating telescope mirrors with aluminum.
After accepting a job as an astronomer in 1957 with the Army Map Service, Kameny was fired after being caught at Lafayette Park in Washington, D.C., a popular cruising location. The police reported him to the Army Map Service, according to New Scientist.
Due to an executive order that mostly banned LGBTQ+ people from working in the federal government, he was terminated from his position, according to Google.
Kameny responded by suing the government. He compared the discrimination he faced to discrimination based on religion or race.
In 1961, Kameny filed what is reported as the first LGBTQ+ rights appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. The court denied the appeal, but Kameny began years of activism.
He wrote to then-President John F. Kennedy citing his time as a U.S. soldier fighting German forces. “In 1961, it has, ironically, become necessary for me to fight my own government, with words, in order to achieve some of the very same rights, freedoms, and liberties for which I placed my life in jeopardy in 1945.”
His activist work included challenging, along with Barbara Gittings, the American Psychiatric Association’s classification of homosexuality as a mental disorder. The classification changed in 1972. He also organized against the ban on LGBTQ+ employees in the federal government. In 1975, the government’s Civil Service Commission reversed the ban.
Kameny is also credited with coining the phrase “Gay is good,” according to The Washington Post.
In 2009, the U.S. government issued a formal apology to Kameny, which recognized his years of work in LGBTQ+ rights activism.
“So, in a sense, it took 50 years, but I won my case … All I can say is from the long view, 50 years, we have moved ahead in a way that would have been absolutely unimaginable back then,” he said after receiving the apology.
Kameny died in 2011 at 86. Following his death, the American Astronomical Association posthumously honored Kameny with a certificate of appreciation.