Dr. Franklin E. Kameny, the LGBT rights pioneer whose activism began when he took on the federal government in the 1950s after he was fired for being gay, was honored Thursday with a farewell viewing held at the Carnegie Library in Washington, D.C. He died on October 11 at age 86.
Pallbearers at the service included City Council members David Catania and Jim Graham, as well as Lt. Dan Choi and Capt. Jim Pietrangelo, both known for their participation at White House protests last year during the repeal battle over “don’t ask, don’t tell.” D.C. mayor Vincent Gray was among those who gave remarks at the memorial viewing, organized by Bob Witeck and Charles Francis.
A flag-draped casket in the center of the room was flanked by bold-type protest signs that became synonymous with Kameny and, like his coined slogan “Gay is Good,” have enduring resonance. To the left of the casket, one such specimen read, “Homosexuals ask for the right to the pursuit of happiness.”
Founder of the Mattachine Society of Washington, Kameny, an astronomer who worked for the Army Map Service, had vigorously fought his dismissal in 1957. 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.”
On Wednesday, the National Parks Service added Kameny’s Washington, D.C. home to its Register of Historic Places. — Andrew Harmon