|President Obama hands Frank Kameny |
the pen which he used to sign a
extending benefits to same-sex partners
of federal employees.
I first learned of Mr. Kameny while watching "Before Stonewall", a documentary about the pioneers of the Gay Movement before the 1969 Stonewall Inn Riots on Christopher Street in New York City. Since then I have seen his name pop up again and again in the fight for basic civil rights in America.
He worked tirelessly to increase the acceptance of gay men and lesbians in mainstream American society and to gain homosexual equality through the legal system.
Mr. Kameny, a Harvard PhD lost his federal government job as an astronomer with the U.S. Army Map Service in 1957 because of his homosexuality.
After being let go he led a tireless fight for gay and lesbian rights. He and a friend began the Mattachine Society of Washington, and in 1965 Kameny and his group were the first ever to picket the White House and the Pentagon in the name of gay rights.
This was of course years before a true gay rights movement existed in any recognizable form. It was also a time in which being an open homosexual could be seen as an invitation for getting the shit beat out of you. He instructed his picketers to wear appropriate business attire including suits and ties in order to not draw attention to themselves in a negative way.
It was his assertion that gays and lesbians should not accept the stigma of being sick because of their homosexuality and subsequently organized a drive which eventually caused the American Psychiatric Association to declassify homosexuality as a mental illness.
He lived to see not only benefits extended to same-sex partners of federal employees, but also the end to Don't Ask Don't Tell, allowing gays and lesbians to openly serve in the military.
There is a street in Washington D.C. which has been named for this hero of the gay movement, documents and papers of his were part of an exhibition on civil rights at the Library of Congress, and his picket signs from 1965 are now in the Smithsonian Institution.
I call on Congress to come up with a Frank Kameny bill which would finally offer basic civil rights protection for America's LGBT citizens. What a fitting tribute to the work of a man who coined the phrase, Gay is Good.
"Not only are the government's present policies on homosexuality irrational in themselves, but they are unreasonable in that they are grossly inconsistent with the fundamental precepts upon which this government is based...we may commence with the Declaration of Independence, and its affirmation , as an "inalienable right" that of the "pursuit of happiness". Surely a most fundamental, unobjectionable, and unexceptionable element in human happiness is the right to bestow affection upon and to receive affection from whom one wishes. Yet, upon pain of severe penalty, the government itself would abridge this right for the homosexual"
-From Kameny's Petition for a Writ of Certiorari to the United States Supreme Court, January, 1961