In 1957, Harvard trained astronomer Franklin “Frank” Kameny was fired from his job with the U.S. Army Map Service because he was gay. Dr. Kameny never practiced astronomy again, spending his life in a single-minded pursuit of gay civil rights. This month, The International Astronomers Union and The Minor Planet Center, honored Dr. Kameny, who died last year at age 86, by naming an asteroid formerly designated as Asteroid 4063, “Frankkameny.”
Dr. Kameny’s leadership in the LGBT movement is legendary. He was the first person to challenge being fired for sexual orientation in federal court, appealing all the way to the Supreme Court, which refuse to grant certiorari to his case. Among his extensive list of accomplishments, Dr. Kameny is credited with being the first openly gay to run for congress, with coining the phrase “Gay is Good,” and with writing the bill that passed in 1993, overturning the District of Columbia’s anti-sodomy law. Dr. Kameny was also instrumental in persuading the American Psychiatric Association to end the practice of classifying homosexuality as a mental disorder.
It was Canadian astronomer Gary Billings who initiated the request to name an asteroid after Dr. Kameny. When Billings read Dr. Kameny’s obituary, he sought out other astronomers to join him in a petition to name an asteroid Billings had discovered after the gay rights legend. The asteroid was officially dedicated July 3, with the following citation, which was published by the Minor Planet Center:
Frank E. Kameny (1925-2011) trained as a variable star astronomer in the 1950s, but joined the Civil Rights struggle. His contributions included removing homosexuality from being termed a mental disorder in 1973 and shepherding passage of the District of Columbia marriage equality law in 2009.
Frankkameny, the asteroid, can be seen through a telescope as a point of light traveling between Mars and Jupiter. Shine on Frankkameny. Shine on.
Image, top, via FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Jean Ann Esselink is a straight friend to the gay community. Proud and loud Liberal. Closet writer of political fiction. Black sheep agnostic Democrat from a conservative Catholic family. Living in Northern Oakland County Michigan with Puck the Wonder Beagle. Find me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter at @uncucumbered.
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