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The Irrepressible Frank Kameny (In the words of Randy Shilts)

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On October 12, 2011, 86 year-old Frank Kameny died. It cannot be overstated what an incredibly brave man he was, and the extent to which the modern gay rights movement in the United States rests firmly on his shoulders.

In 1993, Steve Campbell and I had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. Kameny on video in his home in Washington DC (which I will optimize for the web and post in days to come), for the CD ROM version of “Conduct Unbecoming: Gays & Lesbians in the U.S. Military. Randy Shilts’ epic masterpiece of investigative journalism remains the ultimate history of gays in the military up until Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

On July 14, 2011, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful (FAIR) Education Act, authored by Senator Mark Leno, to amend the Education Code to include social sciences instruction on the contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. Despite the hysterical outcry from homophobes and those who would deny historical accuracy (much like they do science), Frank Kameny’s contributions to civil society, not just gay rights, should be taught and acknowledged with the same respect and accuracy as Malcolm X or Susan B. Anthony.

Frank Kamney was an activist’s activist. The Thomas Jefferson of Gay Liberation. In the excerpts below, Shilts captures just a glimpse of who Frank Kameny was, what he stood for, and what he achieved. 

Clinton Fein

UNTIL 1959, DR. FRANKLIN KAMENY had been a happy, eccentric scientist performing his tasks in observational astronomy for the Army Map Service. He had a doctorate in astronomy from Harvard, and everyone agreed that he was very good at what he did, but this made no difference when his boss called him in and told him he was fired because he was a homosexual, since under the rules of the Civil Service Commission no homosexual could work for the United States government. Kameny had never demonstrated much of a political bent in the past, but as a man of science he was devoted to reason and could not fathom how his behavior in the privacy of his bedroom affected his job as a government astronomer. An intellectual, he was also not about to suffer fools gladly. Rather than quietly accept the termination and seek employment elsewhere, he decided to fight.

For the next two years, Kameny labored over his petition for certiorari, or a request of review by the Supreme Court. He developed legal arguments against the government’s action and formulated his own ideas about what would later be called gay liberation. In March 1961, when the high court turned down his petition, he began to seek out organizations championing homosexual rights. He found only five or six of them in the country. He soon set up his own group, the Washington chapter of the Mattachine Society. From that moment on, he had three goals: to end the Civil Service’s ban on gays working for the government, to end discrimination against homosexuals seeking security clearances, and to end the exclusion of gays from the military.


 

BY THE TIME TECHNICAL Sergeant Leonard Matlovich appeared at Frank Kameny’s two-story brick house a half block from the Potomac River, he had already confided that he was indeed the “friend” for whom he had placed the phone call several months earlier. Kameny’s enthusiasm built as Matlovich recounted his military resume. The man held the Bronze Star, a Purple Heart, two Air Force commendation medals, and a recent Air Force Meritorious Service Medal, had done three tours in Vietnam, and had altogether eleven years of unblemished service. Central casting could not have provided a better test case to take to the Supreme Court. Kameny, however, was no lawyer. Fortunately, a former Air Force lawyer had already volunteered for the job.


 

Matlovich’s decision to fight the military’s exclusion of gays came as he settled into a new routine within the huge array of military bases around the Norfolk area, the region locals called Hampton Roads. At night military men with their telltale short haircuts and without the longish sideburns fashionable in the posthippie era packed the local gay bars. For the first time, Matlovich could socialize with other gay military people, but when he spoke of challenging the regulations he found that such talk genuinely frightened many of his new friends.

Matlovich would not be deterred, however, even though he dreaded both the moment when he would tell the Air Force he was gay and the inevitable aftermath of telling his parents. Still, he felt he had no other choice. For years, he had spoken about the need for the United States to attain justice and equality for all its citizens. Now, he had actually begun to believe it.


 

With Washington activist Frank Kameny, [Bruce] Voeller aggressively lobbied both the American Psychiatric Association and the federal Civil Service Commission to make what would be historic changes in their antigay policies. He also began cultivating relationships with national news organizations, believing media exposure, not radical confrontations, was the better means of educating the country about gay injustices.

 

 

MEMORIAL DAY, 1980
TOMB OF THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA

GAY ORGANIZER FRANK KAMENY had made it clear that if the Army did not grant permission to lay his wreath on Memorial Day, he would do it, anyway–even if he got shot in the process. But it was White House intervention and Allison Thomas’s persistence that finally moved the Army to accede just days before the scheduled ceremonies.

On the morning of the wreath laying, three high-ranking civilian officials from the Department of the Army stood at the ready to make sure the gay activists did not instigate a subversive act, and a squad of armed military police waited out of sight in the tunnel complex beneath the tomb. At the appointed time, Kameny and a handful of other members of the Gay Activists Alliance stepped solemnly down the wide marble staircase to the broad plaza where the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier sits, its pilastered facade facing Washington. From the tunnels below the staircase, an honor guard in Army dress blues emerged with the wreath into the plaza.

This was not a great turning point in the history of the United States, Kameny knew, but it was a small victory. He had known gay men who had died for their country in World War II and in the Korean and Vietnam wars, and he would be damned if they would be denied this honor any longer.

Being a stickler for detail, however, Kameny also noticed the difference between the Gay Activists Alliance commemoration and the others.

While every other group was announced before it placed its wreaths, no announcement was made for the gay activists. And Kameny noticed someone had placed a spray of flower petals to cover the word Gay, so their identifying ribbon read Activists Alliance. And although the wreaths remained on the tomb until it was time for the next ceremony, the gay wreath was gone by the time Kameny and his friends reached the top of the stairs on their way out.

Not long afterward, Kameny received a phone call from a stranger who asked whether he and his lover might pay Frank a visit. As the grand old man of Washington’s gay community, Frank was accustomed to such cryptic requests, and when the couple arrived Kameny recognized one of them as part of the Old Guard that had handled the ceremonies that day. He was here to thank Kameny for the wreath. There were a lot of people in uniform that day, he said, who appreciated what Frank had done.

Copyright 1995-2011 Innoventions, Inc. All rights reserved. Copyright 1993 Randy Shilts. Copyright 1994 Estate of Randy Shilts. All rights reserved. Published by arrangement with St. Martin’s Press.

Clinton Fein is an internationally acclaimed author, artist, and First Amendment activist, best-​known for his 1997 First Amendment Supreme Court victory against United States Attorney General Janet Reno. Fein has also gained international recognition for his Annoy​.com site, and for his work as a political artist. Fein is on the Board of Directors of the First Amendment Project, “a nonprofit advocacy organization dedicated to protecting and promoting freedom of information, expression, and petition.” Fein’s political and privacy activism have been widely covered around the world. His work also led him to be nominated for a 2001 PEN/Newman’s Own First Amendment Award.

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News

‘Train Wreck’: Herschel Walker Criticized for New Ad Claiming God Helped Him ‘Overcome’ His Mental Illness

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After a damning article claiming he paid for one of his girlfriend’s abortions, Republican U.S. Senate nominee for Georgia, Herschel Walker, is out with a new ad that claims he has “overcome” his mental illness thanks to God, while he attacks his incumbent opponent, Democratic U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock, who he baselessly says “doesn’t even believe in redemption.”

Walker’s own campaign compared the Daily Beast’s report – that says Walker even signed a card mentioning the abortion he reportedly paid for – to Donald Trump’s 2016 “Access Hollywood” video, which almost cost him the election.

Back then, Republicans denounced Trump for a few days before immediately coming back to support him. The Walker revelations are arguably worse, given the GOP’s attempts to ban all abortion, calling fetuses “unborn babies” that deserve all legal protections of born human beings, while declaring abortion murder.

READ MORE: Watch: Herschel Walker Says if Georgia Voters Don’t Elect Him They Won’t Even ‘Have a Chance to Be Redeemed’

And yet, not one Republican has denounced Walker. Donald Trump even rushed out a statement supporting him.

“Reverend Warnock’s running a nasty, dishonest campaign,” Walker says in his new ad, not mentioning – not even denying – that he paid for his girlfriend to have an abortion.

“The Reverend doesn’t even tell my full story,” Walker cries, as if that’s his political opponent’s job.

“As everyone knows, I had a real battle with mental health. Even wrote a book about it. And by the grace of God, I’ve overcome it,” he claims.

READ MORE: ‘Everything Has Been a Lie’: Christian Walker Drops Damning New Video Blasting His Father’s ‘Lies’ Over Abortion

“Warnock’s a preacher doesn’t tell the truth, he doesn’t even believe in redemption,” Walker says, a claim he has repeatedly made despite offering nothing to support the claim. Warnock has even written about redemption.

The ad was posted online by Walker’s deputy campaign manager.

It was immediately panned.

CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski, the head of its fact-checking unit, says the new ad, “presumably in response to [the] Daily Beast story, mentions his book ‘Breaking Free’ being about [a] redemption story — it is worth noting the alleged abortion took place a year after the book was released.”

Speaking of redemption, Walker’s repeated attack that Warnock does not believe in redemption appears wholly false.

Warnock, who is also the senior pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, which was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s church until his assassination, criticized then-President Donald Trump in 2018 after the president called certain African nations “shithole countries.”

Trump signed a proclamation honoring Dr. King, in hopes of not losing more support.

“To sign a proclamation honoring Dr. King hours after this kind of hate-filled speech makes a mockery of Dr. King,” Rev. Warnock said on CNN. “I would argue that a proclamation without an apology is hypocrisy.”

“There is no redemption without repentance and the president of the United States needs to repent,” Warnock said, belying Walker’s recent claims.

Attorney Luppe B. Luppen expands on Kaczynski’s reporting.

“Walker published his book “Breaking Free” on April 1, 2008, approximately a year and a half before he reportedly wrote a check to reimburse a woman he had been dating for an abortion on September 17, 2009.”

Walker has stated he was diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder, which was once known as “multiple personality disorder” or “split personality disorder.”

Political consultant and former Republican, Tim Miller, now an independent and a well-known guest on cable news shows, panned Walker’s ad.

“The end of this ad is absolutely sick,” he observed.

Talking Points Memo founder and publisher Josh Marshall summarizes Walker’s ad:

“So the ad actually says warnocks a liar and then references mental health battle to I guess imply some or all of the stuff is true. Still I used to be violent and crazy but I’m totally better now is a tough closing message.”

Constitutional law professor Anthony Michael Kreis, referring to the infamous “I am not a witch,” campaign ads, tweeted, “Did Christine O’Donnell direct this?”

University of Florida professor Michael McDonald took that one step further, commenting, “I am not a witch.”

Baptist minister Brian Kaylor, Word&Way Editor & President and author of four books on religion and politics blasts Walker.

“Ad is theological & political train wreck. He claims without evidence Warnock (Baptist pastor) doesn’t believe in redemption. And why is he asking voters to decide state of his soul. ‘Saved by Grace’ as political slogan? He’s acting like there should be religious test for office.”

Watch Walker’s new ad above or at this link.

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'HORRIBLE THINGS'

‘What I Saw Was Abuse’: Allegations of Dr. Oz’s Experiments Killing Hundreds of Animals Fact-Checked by Whistleblower

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Over the course of two decades Mehmet Oz, the “celebrity doctor” known as “Dr. Oz,” now the Republican Party of Pennsylvania’s nominee for a U.S. Senate seat, was the “principle investigator” at a Columbia University research laboratory with “full scientific, administrative, and fiscal responsibility for the conduct” of his studies.

According to the website Jezebel, “a review of 75 studies published by Mehmet Oz between 1989 and 2010 reveals the Republican Senate candidate’s research killed over 300 dogs and inflicted significant suffering on them and the other animals used in experiments.”

It was far more than 300 dogs, too, according to Jezebel.

“Over the course of 75 studies published in academic journals reviewed by Jezebel, Oz’s team conducted experiments on at least 1,027 live animal subjects that included dogs, pigs, calves, rabbits, and small rodents. Thirty-four of these experiments resulted in the deaths of at least 329 dogs, while two of his experiments killed 31 pigs, and 38 experiments killed 661 rabbits and rodents,” Jezebel reported.

READ MORE: Dr. Oz Trounced in Newsmax Interview as Host Demands Explanation for ‘Wegner’s’ and ‘Crudité’ Ad

A whistleblower, veterinarian Catherine Dell’Orto provided testimony “about Oz’s research” and “detailed extensive suffering inflicted on his team’s canine test subjects, including multiple violations of the Animal Welfare Act, which sets minimum standards of care for dogs, cats, primates, rabbits, and other animals in the possession of animal dealers and laboratories. The law specifically requires researchers and breeders to use pain-relieving drugs or euthanasia on the animals, and not use paralytics without anesthesia, or experiment multiple times on the same animal.”

Jezebel also reports “Dell’Orto testified that a dog experimented on by Oz’s team experienced lethargy, vomiting, paralysis, and kidney failure, but wasn’t euthanized for a full two days.”

“She alleged other truly horrifying examples of gratuitously cruel treatment of dogs, including at least one dog who was kept alive for a month for continued experimentation despite her unstable, painful condition, despite how data from her continued experimentation was deemed unusable. According to Dell’Orto, one Oz-led study resulted in a litter of puppies being killed by intracardiac injection with syringes of expired drugs inserted in their hearts without any sedation. Upon being killed, the puppies were allegedly left in a garbage bag with living puppies who were their littermates.”

READ MORE: Watch: Herschel Walker Says if Georgia Voters Don’t Elect Him They Won’t Even ‘Have a Chance to Be Redeemed’

That particular detail was so shocking U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT), commented, “WTF.”

“Dell’Orto also noted that while Oz wasn’t the one who euthanized the dogs and puppies himself, ‘When your name is on the experiment, and the way the experiment is designed inflicts such cruelty to these animals, by design, there’s a problem.'”

Oz’s Democratic opponent, Pennsylvania Lt. Governor John Fetterman summed up the allegations, tweeting, “Dr. Oz is a puppy killer.”

PEOPLE magazine followed up with Dell’Orto to fact check the Jezebel report.

It did not get any better for Dr. Oz.

“Dell’Orto tells PEOPLE she witnessed the inhumane treatment of dogs in lab experiments investigating aspects of heart function over which Oz served in the role of ‘principal investigator’ — including leaving dogs in pain and paralyzed for weeks, with no discernible research benefit, before they were euthanized or died,” People reports.

While others in the same role as Oz involved themselves personally in experiments to “ensure minimal suffering,” People reports, Dell’Orto says with Dr. Oz, “What I saw was abuse.”

“‘The puppies killed in the bag were killed by a vet tech,’ not by Oz, Dell’Orto tells PEOPLE.”

In another experiment one dog “was kept alive for 29 days post-operatively despite being paralyzed and with no clear research benefit, says Dell’Orto.”

“Horrible things that went on,” Dell’Orto said.

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RELIGIOUS EXTREMISM

Kellyanne Conway Is Now a Religious Right Crusader Using Christianity to Attack Democrats as a Paid Fox News Contributor

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Former Trump 2016 campaign manager and Senior Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway has remade herself multiple times. A pollster who once had as a client Todd Akin – the GOP lawmaker who made the phrase, “if it’s a legitimate rape” infamous – Conway also did polling for Donald Trump when he was considering a run for New York governor.

Once inside the White House Conway was one of the newsiest officials, often appearing before the Fox News cameras almost daily.

Fox News viewers will once again get to see the former top Trump aide almost daily – this time as a paid Fox News contributor who is using her Christian faith as a sword to attack Democrats.

Conway is the latest Trump White House official to be hired by Fox News, and while she’s not Trump’s spokesperson any longer, she may wrangle the gig into getting her old one back. Puck reports she is being considered to helm Trump’s expected 2024 presidential run.

READ MORE: Watch: Herschel Walker Says if Georgia Voters Don’t Elect Him They Won’t Even ‘Have a Chance to Be Redeemed’

In fact, the two have something in common.

“I will tell you why he wants to run for president,” Conways told CBS News on Friday. “Donald Trump wants his old job back.”

Conway joins a long list of her former colleagues at what has become a far right wing media outlet catering to promoting anything Trump, while downplaying any negative news about the former president who is currently being investigated by prosecutors in Georgia and the U.S. Dept. of Justice for an array of possible felonies, reportedly including ones under the Espionage Act.

Conway will be right at home working alongside Kayleigh McEnany, Mike Pompeo, Larry Kudlow, and Trump’s daughter-in-law and former Trump campaign official Lara Trump.

READ MORE: ‘Everything Has Been a Lie’: Christian Walker Drops Damning New Video Blasting His Father’s ‘Lies’ Over Abortion

In April Vox reported that “while he hasn’t been hired by Fox, former Trump adviser Stephen Miller — known for helping to develop Trump’s nativist immigration policy — has become a fixture as a guest on Sean Hannity’s and Laura Ingraham’s shows.”

“Since the start of President Joe Biden’s term,” Media Matters reported in February, “Fox News has hired at least nine editors who previously worked for former President Donald Trump’s administration, Republican campaign offices, or Republican politicians. Many of those editors now cover politics for FoxNews.com.”

On Tuesday Conway appeared on Fox News and attacked Democrats, saying Hispanic voters “see a Democratic Party that’s openly hostile to religion. They can’t even give their thoughts and prayers when there’s a tragedy. It’s only thoughts now.”

The Washington Post‘s Philip Bump calls Conway’s analysis “overly simple and, in part, … explicitly dishonest.”

“Kellyanne Conway claimed that Democrats are hostile religion, something that will surprise the vast majority of Democrats, who are religious,” he adds on Twitter. “There’s a reason that ‘religious’ doesn’t automatically mean ‘Republican.'”

One day earlier, in a segment with a chyron that reads, “The Importance of Religion,” Conway told her former and now current colleague, Larry Kudlow on Fox Business, “People are afraid to make the sign of a cross before a meal in public, they’re afraid to express their — they actually think their religion could get them canceled now, not just their politics, and think about that.”

Conway, perhaps best known for her “alternative facts” flub, offered no proof of her claim.

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