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



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.




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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‘Isn’t Glock a Good Gun?’ Trump Asks Before Saying He Is Buying One – Campaign Forced to Deny He Did



During a photo shoot at a South Carolina gun shop, Donald Trump posed with and then said he wanted to buy a Glock, asking if it is “a good gun.”

Some say it might be illegal to sell a gun to anyone under criminal indictment, and if he took the gun with him that too might be illegal. It was not clear if, despite saying he would, he actually bought the firearm. The Trump campaign initially said he had, although later backtracked on its claim, and deleted the social media post saying he had.

In the photo op (video below,) Trump posed with several people, including the Republican Attorney General of South Carolina, Alan Wilson, who has held that elected position since 2011.

“Trump’s spokesman announced that Trump bought a Glock today in South Carolina. He even posted video,” wrote former Chicago Tribune editor Mark Jacob. “If Trump took the gun with him, that’s a federal crime since he’s under indictment. There’s also a law against selling a gun to someone under federal indictment like Trump.”

READ MORE: ‘Poof’: White House Mocks Stunned Fox News Host as GOP’s Impeachment Case Evaporates on Live Air

Reuters’ crime and justice reporter Brad Heath posted the federal laws that might apply, as well as Trump’s campaign spokesperson’s clip of the ex-president’s remarks, and his spokesperson saying, “President Trump purchases a @GLOCKInc in South Carolina!”

CNN analyst Stephen Gutowski, who writes about gun policy, added, “It would be a crime for him to actually buy this gun because he’s under felony indictment. Did he actually go through with this purchase?”

“People under felony indictments can’t ‘receive’ new firearms. That also means you can’t buy them,” he also wrote.

MSNBC anchor and legal contributor Katie Phang wrote, “I don’t know if he actually bought the gun. At least it didn’t happen in this video. Also, the Attorney General of South Carolina is in this video. Is he watching Trump commit a crime?”

But some pointed to a federal judge in Texas’ ruling from last year. Reuters reported, a “federal law prohibiting people under felony indictment from buying firearms is unconstitutional.”

Watch the video below or at this link.



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‘Poof’: White House Mocks Stunned Fox News Host as GOP’s Impeachment Case Evaporates on Live Air



The White House is mocking a Fox News host who appeared stunned as the former President of Ukraine destroyed House Republicans’ impeachment case against President Joe Biden on live-air in real time.

Fox News host Brian Kilmeade, a supporter of Donald Trump, on Monday interviewed former President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, who served from 2014-2019. Kilmeade previously had interviewed Viktor Shokin, the former Prosecutor General of Ukraine, who was fired in 2016 for not prosecuting corruption cases.

“I had a chance to talk to Viktor Shokin, a man who says he was friends of yours, who you asked to come back and help out during the transition after the previous regime,” Kilmeade told Poroshenko. “Here’s what he said on why he was fired by you. Listen.”

On previously recorded video, Shokin says: “Poroshenko fired me at the insistence of the then Vice President Biden, because I was investigating Burisma… There were no complaints whatsoever, no problems with how I was performing at my job, but because pressure was repeatedly put on President Poroshenko that is, what ended up in him firing me.”

READ MORE: ‘Height of Irresponsibility’: Top LGBTQ Civil Rights Group Slams House Republicans Over Shutdown and ‘Politics of Hate’

Kilmeade then asks the former Ukrainian President, “Is that why he got fired, because of the billion dollars and the former vice president now President?”

“First of all, this is the completely crazy person,” Poroshenko says of Shokin, as Kilmeade grows increasingly stunned. “This is something wrong with him. Second, there is no one single word of truth. And third, I hate the idea to come to make any commands and to make any intervention in an American election. We have very much enjoyed the bipartisan support. And please do not use the such person like Shokin to undermine the trust between bipartisan support in Ukraine.”

Surprised, Kilmeade asks, “What do you mean, he’s not your friend?”

“I don’t see him maybe for years or something, at all,” Poroshenko tells Kilmeade, before getting a bit heated. “And I hate to have him, because [he] keep playing very dirty game, unfortunately.”

“Okay,” the surprised Fox News host says, before asking again. “So that is not true. You didn’t, you didn’t, he didn’t get fired because of Joe Biden?”

READ MORE: ‘Careening’ Toward ‘Risk of Political Violence’: Experts Sound Alarm After Trump Floats Executing His Former General

“He was fired,” Poroshenko replied. “But because of his own statement, and if you do not do that next day, Ukrainian parliament will fire him.”

HuffPost’s political reporter Arthur Delaney, responding to the video, writes: “This is the centerpiece of the Republicans’ corruption allegation against Joe Biden.”

While debunked numerous times during Trump’s presidency, Republicans have resurfaced the false claim that then-Vice President Biden forced then-president Poroshenko to fire Shokin in an effort to protect Burisma. Shokin was not investigating Burisma, according to a CNN fact check.

“Poroshenko is absolutely right here and good for him for stating clearly how dangerous it is that his false story is being used to play political games with n the US. Shokin’s claims have no basis in reality. He was fired for incompetence and failing to crack down on corruption,” writes the Financial Times’ Ukraine correspondent Christopher Miller.

U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) mocked Oversight Committee Chairman Jim Comer, writing on social media, “Ummm @RepJamesComer call your office.”

White House spokesperson Ian Sams went further, while pointing out the allegation just evaporated.

READ MORE: Gaetz Praises GOP Congressman Who Echoes His Call for Change ‘Through Force’

“Not only does he play a leading role in the conspiracy theories promoted by Fox News personalities – he is central to the conspiracy theories animating extreme House Republicans’ baseless, fact-free impeachment stunt against President Biden,” Sams wrote. “Yet another allegation goes *poof*”

Watch the video below or at this link.


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‘Height of Irresponsibility’: Top LGBTQ Civil Rights Group Slams House Republicans Over Shutdown and ‘Politics of Hate’



The nation’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization on Monday released a 30-second TV ad attacking House Republicans for their “politics of hate” and for bring the federal government to the edge of a shutdown. The government will shut down unless the House can pass legislation to keep it open, legislation the Senate would have to vote on and pass, and President Joe Biden would have to sign, all before midnight on September 30.

“You sent your representative to Washington to work on behalf of everyday Americans, like you. But House Republicans spent the summer trying to divide us and failing to pass essential spending bills,” says the voiceover on the Human Rights Campaign‘s ad, expected to air nationwide according to The Hill.

“Instead, they’re trying to limit the health care you and your family can access, ban books and flags and block enforcement of civil rights laws, all while risking the government grinding to a halt.”

“Tell Congress to reject the politics of hate and get back to work,” the video adds.

READ MORE: ‘Careening’ Toward ‘Risk of Political Violence’: Experts Sound Alarm After Trump Floats Executing His Former General

“In addition to attaching numerous anti-LGBTQ+ provisions to their draft spending bills,” HRC adds in a press release, “the legislative attacks from Republicans in the House of Representatives also include stand-alone bills such as H.R. 734 — a nationwide ban on transgender students playing sports — as well as larger legislative packages like H.R. 5, which included book bans and provisions stigmatizing transgender students. The new ad from HRC, which will air nationwide, calls on voters to contact members and tell them to stand with the American people, reject the extremism of those like Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene and others, and take action to prevent a shutdown.”

“A shutdown is the height of irresponsibility and would interrupt critical government services, hurt working families, and endanger our national security,” said Kelley Robinson, President of the Human Rights Campaign. “This outcome was entirely avoidable, but House Republicans have instead hijacked the appropriations process to attack LGBTQ+ communities rather than doing their jobs. It’s past time for them to stop pushing an extremist agenda that’s a danger to us all.”

Watch the video below or at this link.



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