Connect with us

Frank Kameny, American Gay Rights Pioneer, Dies at 86

Published

on

Frank Kameny, a co-founder of the Mattachine Society of Washington and one of the leading activists of the modern gay rights movement, died Tuesday night at home, as a result of natural causes.

Kameny passed away on National Coming Out Day, a fitting exit for the courageous trailblazer. He was found in his bed by Timothy Clark, a roommate, according to the Washington Blade.

A World War II veteran, Kameny — who possessed a Harvard doctorate in astronomy — was discovered to be gay while serving as a civilian astronomer in the Army’s Map Service in 1957. Consequently, he was discharged, but fought back and took his case to the United States Supreme Court. Although the Court declined to hear his case in March 1961, Kameny was the first gay person to advance the cause of gay rights to the nation’s highest court.

Coining the iconic statement “Gay is Good,” Kameny fought to advance gay rights for the next 50 years.

Kameny’s work, fearless and persistent, possessed such audacity in retrospect that his actions can be defined as literally breathtaking. Kameny even inspired to provoke FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, and placed Hoover on the Mattachine Society’s mailing list. Hoover, considered then and now to be one of the most infamous powerful figures in the closet, sent agents to Kameny’s apartment, ordering him to remove Hoover from the mailing list, according to Randy Shilts, who reported Kameny’s audacious actions extensively in Conduct Unbecoming: Gays and Lesbians in the U.S. Military.

Shilts wrote that Kameny had three goals after founding the Washington, D.C. Mattachine Society in 1961 and they were, “to end the federal government’s ban on gay civil servants, to end discrimination against homosexuals seeking security clearances for government work and end the ban on gays serving in the military.”

He would live to witness most of these goals realized, and then some.

Kameny would organize and lead many firsts, paving the way for a new gay America in the post-Stonewall era. Along with Barbara Gittings, a lesbian activist, they organized the first gay rights picket at the White House in 1965. Later, Kameny would also organize the first pickets at the State Department and the Pentagon.  These signs, along with more than 70,000 of Kameney’s letters, documents and memorabilia, now belong to the Smithsonian Museum and have been displayed during recent years.

By the early 1970s Kameny would lead the Washington-based Gay Activists Alliance. He was frequently quoted in the media on security clearance, employment and military discrimination practices, which would precipitate phone calls from persons in need of assistance. Air Force Sergeant Leonard Matlovich would make one of those calls to Kameny in March, 1974. Matlovich, the first active duty person to openly declare his homosexuality, with Kameny at his side, would tell his story to the country, achieving the first wave of national media coverage about discrimination against gay service members in American history.

This writer was under investigation for being a homosexual in the U.S. in March 1974, while stationed at Ft. Devens, Massachusetts. Frank Kameny would be the first gay activist I would ever speak to and advised my ACLU attorneys on how to handle the Army’s criminal charges against me. In my personal papers, I have written correspondence between my lawyers and Frank Kameny. Little did I know in 1974, when I thought my entire life was falling apart, that Frank Kameny was not only an adviser on my case, but had been working on these issues for nearly 20 years. I called Frank Kameny and met with him when I traveled to Washington, D.C. in May 1975 when the Army retaliated against me by assigning me to “cook school,” although I was cleared of all gay-related “crimes.”

Accolades for Kameny and his pioneering gay rights work have poured forth in the announcement of his passing.

Joe Solmonese, the president of Human Rights Campaign issued the following statement,

“Frank Kameny led an extraordinary life marked by heroic activism that set a path for the modern LGBT civil rights movement. From his early days fighting institutionalized discrimination in the federal workplace Dr. Kameny taught us that ‘Gay is Good.’  As we say goodbye to this trailblazer on National Coming Out Day, we remember the remarkable power we all have to change the world by living our lives like Frank — openly, honestly and authentically.”

Richard Socarides, the first White House gay and lesbian liaison during the Clinton Administration, said to Metro Weekly, “Frank was such a brave person.  To do what he did when he did it.  A shining example for us all.  An amazing, inspirational figure, who stands out among the giants of our movement.”

Bob Witek, who is managing Kameny’s personal papers told Metro Weekly, “Frank…truly, truly, was a lifelong lesson in being principled.  It’s just an amazing gift — an annoying gift. All of us have our doubts; Frank didn’t have a one. If he did, he didn’t tell anyone.”

On June 24, 2009 Kameny received a formal letter of apology from the federal government that called his firing for being gay, “a shameful action.” On June 10th a Washington, D.C. street between R and Q on 17th Street was dedicated as “Frank Kameny Way NW.” Kameny was in attendance at the White House signing of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) in December 2010.

Witnek announced that a public memorial for Kameny will likely be held in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the Washington Mattachine Society on November 15.

 

(Image of Frank Kameny courtesy of journalist Rex Wockner.)

 

 

Tanya L. Domi is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University who teaches about human rights in Eurasia and is a Harriman Institute affiliated faculty member. Prior to teaching at Columbia, Domi worked internationally for more than a decade on issues related to democratic transitional development, including political and media development, human rights, gender issues, sex trafficking, and media freedom.

Continue Reading
Click to comment
 
 

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. The New Civil Rights Movement depends on readers like you to meet our ongoing expenses and continue producing quality progressive journalism. Three Silicon Valley giants consume 70 percent of all online advertising dollars, so we need your help to continue doing what we do.

NCRM is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. From unflinching coverage of religious extremism, to spotlighting efforts to roll back our rights, NCRM continues to speak truth to power. America needs independent voices like NCRM to be sure no one is forgotten.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure NCRM remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to NCRM, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

News

Dominion Lawsuit: Sidney Powell, Mike Lindell and Rudy Giuliani Pushed Trump Lies for Fame, Glory — and Pillows

Published

on

Attorneys for Dominion Voting Systems accused Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell of spreading lies about Donald Trump’s election loss for fame and glory.

The voting technology company’s lawyers argued Thursday in a court hearing that Trump’s former campaign lawyers and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell believed they could attain power and influence by helping the former president remain in office by overturning his election loss with baseless claims of fraud and tampering, reported CNN.

“That’s the place they could get in-person audiences,” said Dominion attorney Megan Meier. “[Washington was] the place where Powell could become a household name.”

Attorneys for Giuliani, Powell and Lindell — who have been sued for $1.3 billion in the defamation suit — at times attempted to re-litigate the election during the four-hour hearing, which began a few hours after a New York court suspended Giuliani’s law license over his election fraud lies.

The former New York City mayor did not attend the hearing, but Powell and Lindell did.

Another attorney for Dominion argued that the case can remain alive in court, even if jurors find the defendants’ claims “improbable,” because the case isn’t about “the marketplace of ideas,” as Lindell’s attorney has argued.

“There is a quantum of information available to [Lindell] by the time he made these statements,” Clare said. “He made the preconceived notion that the election was stolen.”

The lawsuit accuses Lindell of using election lies and Qanon conspiracy theories to promote his pillow company.

“[He] sells the lie to this day because the lie sells pillows,” the suit alleges.

Continue Reading

FASCISM

‘Just Shoot Them’: Trump Told Top US General to ‘Crack Skulls’ and ‘Beat the F’ Out of Civil Rights Protestors: New Book

Published

on

President Donald Trump told America’s highest-ranking general and top law enforcement officials to “shoot” civil rights protestors in Seattle and Portland, “crack their skulls,” and “beat the f–k” out of them, according to a new book by a Wall Street Journal reporter.

“The President would highlight videos that showed law enforcement getting physical with protesters and tell his administration he wanted to see more of that behavior,” CNN reports, citing excerpts from Michael Bender’s book, “Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost.”

“That’s how you’re supposed to handle these people,” Trump told his top law enforcement and military officials, according to Bender. “Crack their skulls!”

Trump also told his team that he wanted the military to go in and “beat the f–k out” of the civil rights protesters, Bender writes.

“Just shoot them,” Trump said on multiple occasions inside the Oval Office, according to the excerpts.

But Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley (photo, right) refused, Bender reveals, with Milley and Attorney General Bill Barr often finding themselves the only ones willing to push back against the president.

General Milley, who made headlines Wednesday after delivering a stunning lecture on critical race theory and “wokeness” to U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who was not pleased by it, also pushed back against Trump senior advisor, white supremacist Stephen Miller.

During one Oval Office debate, senior Trump adviser Stephen Miller chimed in, equating the scenes unfolding on his television to those in a third-world country and claiming major American cities had been turned into war zones.

“These cities are burning,” Miller warned, according to the excerpts.

The comment infuriated Milley, who viewed Miller as not only wrong but out of his lane, Bender writes, noting the Army general who had commanded troops in Iraq and Afghanistan spun around in his seat and pointed a finger directly at Miller.

“Shut the f–k up, Stephen,” Milley snapped, according to the excerpts.

Read the entire report at CNN.

 

Image of President Trump and General Milley: Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead via Flickr

Continue Reading

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO COMPETENCY?

‘No Time to Waste’: DeSantis Blasted for Going on Fox News as Biden and Miami Mayor Urge Him to Request State of Emergency

Published

on

Florida GOP Governor Ron DeSantis is taking time to pose for the cameras and talk to Fox News in the wake of the stunning partial building collapse that more than 12 hours later has left 99 people missing, and feared dead.

DeSantis reportedly added an interview with far right Fox News host Mark Levin to his calendar for Thursday.

President Joe Biden during a news conference announcing a bipartisan agreement on, appropriately, an infrastructure bill on-camera Thursday afternoon urged the Florida Republican governor to ask for a declaration of a state of emergency, but DeSantis has yet to do so – nor has he declared a state of emergency himself for the Surfside disaster. President Biden appears to have ordered FEMA to Florida to assess the situation, which is the most they are allowed to do until the governor acts.

Also urging DeSantis to request a state of emergency declaration is Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, who says “there is no time to waste.”

Apparently DeSantis believes there is, and many are blasting the likely 2024 GOP presidential hopeful.

Continue Reading

Trending

Copyright © 2020 AlterNet Media.