Frank Kameny


Four posts have been merged into one.


Frank Kameny | UPI File Photo taken on May 19, 1965/Washington Post | 14440

Gay Activist is sad to note the passing of Frank Kameny, age 86. Mr Kameny was found dead on Oct. 11, 2014 at his home in Northwest Washington and his death was confirmed by Charles Francis, of the Kameny Papers Project and Marvin Carter, a longtime friend.

The Washington Post notes:

“Through his efforts over the years, Mr. Kameny deserved to be known as one of the fathers of that shift from the policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” …
Mr. Kameny enlisted in the Army during World War II; in an interview last year with Richard Sincere on the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner Web site, he said, “They asked, I didn’t tell.”

In what appeared to be one of the great triumphs of Mr. Kameny’s often lonely, uphill struggle, the protest signs that he once carried in front of the White House were put on display in the Smithsonian Institution four years ago, to be viewed along with the museum’s other reminders of the course of U.S. history.”


Frank Kameny and members of the Mattachine Society at a gay pride march in 1970 | Joe My God | 14198

In 1961, astronomer Frank Kameny wasn’t able to get legal support from the American Civil Liberties Union when he was fired from his federal job for being gay. At the time, the laws in all 50 states made sodomy a crime, and the ACLU did not help him file a petition for cert, later turned down by the Supreme Court. … The Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund formed in 1973 to fight for legal rights for gays. At the same time, advocates lobbied law schools and groups like the ABA to adopt nondiscrimination policies. Law firms had to agree not to discriminate if they wanted to recruit at law schools, leading to new policies.

When the Supreme Court struck down a sodomy law in Lawrence v. Texas, large law firms and groups like the ABA supported the Lambda Legal challenge. … “Gay-rights supporters have transformed the law and the legal profession, opening the doors of law firms, law schools and courts to people who were once casually and cruelly shut out because of their sexual orientation.”


Frank Kameny receives a pen President Obama used to sign a memorandum regarding non-discrimination | June 17, 2009 | Getty | 14439

Frank Kameny was being remembered by many writers in America and around the world. David Carter writes for CNN.

“America has lost her greatest leader in the fight for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality: Franklin E. Kameny, universally known as Frank Kameny. It is hard today to understand the courage it took for Kameny simply to fight to get his job back after he was fired from the government’s Army Map Service in 1957 for being gay.

It is probably impossible for most people now to imagine the even greater courage it took in 1961 for him to start an organization to fight for 100% equality for homosexuals. But that is exactly what he did after he exhausted all personal avenues of appeal, including writing a stirring brief to the Supreme Court, which refused to hear his case.

While it is true that there was ongoing organized political activity on behalf of American homosexuals starting in 1951 with the founding of the Mattachine Society, that organization abandoned its approach of political activism and chose for its leader a cautious man, Hal Call.

Call advocated what was known in the homophile movement (the name the movement used then) as the “education and research” approach. Gay people had so little self-confidence at that time that they felt their only chance of gaining some tolerance was by asking psychiatrists to say that we were mentally ill and therefore should be pitied and given therapy instead of being incarcerated.

…Progress was hard slogging for Kameny in the ’60s. He and Mattachine Society of Washington co-founder Jack Nichols were passionate about the damage done by the American Psychiatric Association’s classification of homosexuality as a mental illness. In the analysis of Kameny and others, gay people at the time were triply condemned as sinners, criminals and mentally ill, and Kameny came to take the position that “we cannot ask for our rights as a minority group … from a position of inferiority or from a position … as less than whole human beings. I feel that the entire homophile movement … is going to stand or fall upon the question of whether or not homosexuality is a sickness and upon our taking a firm stand on it.”

Documents from gay rights history are on display for the first time at the Library of Congress as part of an exhibit on the nation’s constitutional history and civil rights protections. The documents come from gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny, who was fired as a government astronomer in 1957 because he was gay. The exhibit includes Kameny’s 1961 petition to the U.S. Supreme Court contesting his firing. The documents were placed on view at the end of April in an exhibit called “Creating the United States,” which traces the evolution of the nation’s founding documents and legal framework. The Kameny Papers Project which donated about 50,000 items to the library in 2006.

The library is also displaying a 1966 letter from the head of the U.S. Civil Service Commission under President Lyndon B. Johnson, justifying the firing based on the “revulsion of other employees.” It was introduced last year as evidence in the battle over gay rights in California to show a long pattern of treatment by the federal government.



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