Frank Kameny, 1925-2011

by on October 11, 2011  •  In Uncategorized

Frank Kameny, who filed the first Kamenypetition alleging an equal protection claim based on sexual orientation at the Supreme Court in 1961 after being fired by a federal agency, led pickets at the Civil Service Commission in 1965, coined "gay is good" as a slogan in 1968, and received a formal apology for his firing from the head of the Civil Service more than 40 years later, died today at the age of 86.

From the Washington Post:

…Rather than shrink from revealing his sexual orientation, Mr. Kameny made it plain. He won attention and respect by the vigorous campaign he waged 40 years ago for election as the District’s non-voting delegate to Congress.

“Out for Good,” a history of the gay rights movement in the United States, made Mr. Kameny the central figure in several chapters. One of the book’s co-authors, Dudley Clendinen has called him an “authentic hero” of American culture. In summarizing Mr. Kameny’s precarious position after the loss of his job, Clendinen noted that he subsisted on a diet of baked beans. But, the author said, “he didn’t despair.”

Known for his outspokenly militant tactics and his refusal to confine himself to bland and apologetic statements, Mr. Kameny was credited with playing an important part in the achievement of what were regarded as several signal milestones passed by gay people on the road to full inclusion in American society.

In addition to the White House, he picketed at the State Department, and at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. He did not accept his federal dismissal without a fight, appealing through the courts, and writing his own briefs…

In the effort that persuaded the American Psychiatric Association to stop classifying homosexuality as a mental disorder, Mr. Kameny played a major role. Among the victories for gay people with which he was associated was a presidential executive order signed by Bill Clinton that permitted gay people to be given security clearances…The story of his struggle, chronicled in a reported 77,000 pages of papers and memorabilia, was gladly accepted in 2006 by the Library of Congress.

“Frank was active at a time when he had no backup,” said Rick Rosendall, a longtime gay rights activist in the District. “There was no significant organizational support. It was his sheer nerve, his patriotic indignation” that carried him.

His home [was] designated as a D.C. Historic Landmark.

Franklin Edward Kameny, was born in the New York area on May 21, 1925, and after his Army service received a doctorate in astronomy in 1956. He came to Washington to work for the Army Map Service. His dismissal from that job came in 1957. Published accounts say the dismissal was based on his homosexuality. One report said that he was arrested in Lafayette Square, which was known at that time as a place for cruising by homosexuals….

On one occasion, he permitted himself to speculate on how things might have turned out if he had not been dismissed, just as interest in space exploration was growing. He suggested on one occasion that he might have become an astronaut. “I might have gone to the moon,” he said…

If he had, one imagines that he might have left behind a copy of the Bill of Rights rather than the flag. Frank was his own man.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *