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 Shiltsâ€™ epic masterpiece of investigative journalism remains the ultimate history of gays in the military up until Donâ€™t Ask, Donâ€™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.Â
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 governmentâ€™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 Serviceâ€™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 Kamenyâ€™s two-story brick house a half block from the Potomac River, he had already confided that he was indeed the â€œfriendâ€ for whom he had placed the phone call several months earlier. Kamenyâ€™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.
Matlovichâ€™s decision to fight the militaryâ€™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
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 Thomasâ€™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 Washingtonâ€™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-â€‹known for his 1997 First Amendment Supreme Court victory against United States Attorney General Janet Reno. Fein has also gained international recognition for his Annoyâ€‹.com site, and for his work as a political artist. Fein is on the Board of Directors of the First Amendment Project, â€œa nonprofit advocacy organization dedicated to protecting and promoting freedom of information, expression, and petition.â€ Feinâ€™s political and privacy activism have been widely covered around the world. His work also led him to be nominated for a 2001 PEN/Newmanâ€™s Own First Amendment Award.
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Dominion Wins ‘Blockbuster Victories’ Against Fox News – Last Legal Issue Will Be Decided by a Jury: Report
Dominion Voting Systems won what are being called “blockbuster victories” Friday afternoon when a judge ruled the company suing Fox News for $1.6 billion in a major defamation lawsuit had met its burden of proof that Rupert Murdoch‘s far-right wing cable channel had repeatedly made false statements.
The final, and likely greatest legal issue Dominion will have to prove will be actual malice. That issue will be decided in a jury trial, Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric M. Davis ruled Friday, according to Law & Crime.
Unlike previous cases, Fox News will reportedly not be able to argue the on-air statements its personalities made were opinion.
CNN legal analyst and Brookings senior fellow Norm Eisen calls Friday’s decision a “huge win for Dominion on their summary judgment motion against Fox News.”
READ MORE: Capitol Police Issue Warning Over Possible Trump Protests ‘Across the Country’
“Dominion won partial summary judgement that what Fox said about them was false! Now they just have to prove actual malice and damages,” Eisen says. “Meanwhile Fox’s motion was totally denied.”
Former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance, an MSNBC contributor adds: “Dominion’s evidence Fox made false statements with reckless disregard is as strong as any I’ve seen.”
The judge was very clear in his ruling.
“While the Court must view the record in the light most favorable to Fox, the record does not show a genuine issue of material fact as to falsity,” Judge Davis wrote. “Through its extensive proof, Dominion has met its burden of showing there is no genuine issue of material fact as to falsity. Fox therefore had the burden to show an issue of material fact existed in turn. Fox failed to meet its burden.”
READ MORE: ‘Propaganda Network’: Media Reporter Says Dominion Filing Exposes Fox News as ‘Void of the Most Basic Journalistic Ethics’
Attorney and MSNBC host and legal analyst Katie Phang points to this key passage in Judge Davis’ ruling.
Dominion has won the argument on the issue of falsity, meaning that as the Court funds below, “it is CRYSTAL clear that none of the Statements relating to Dominion about the 2020 election are true.” pic.twitter.com/7lKEspN0WI
— Katie S. Phang (@KatiePhang) March 31, 2023
Court watchers and news junkies are familiar at this point with the massive legal filings Dominion has made in which it exposed how Fox News knowingly made false statements regarding the 2020 presidential election. Those filings, each hundreds of pages, also detail internal Fox News communications and bombshell conversations between the company’s top personalities, executives, and even Chairman Rupert Murdoch.
Image of Rupert Murdoch via Shutterstock
RIGHT WING EXTREMISM
Capitol Police Issue Warning Over Possible Trump Protests ‘Across the Country’
The U.S. Capitol Police and the Senate Sergeant at Arms on Friday jointly issued a statement warning they “anticipate” Trump protests across the country. The statement is not time-specific, and it states it has no information on “credible threats,” but some Democratic offices are allowing staffers to work from home Friday and Tuesday.
“The Sergeant at Arms and United States Capitol Police (USCP) anticipate demonstration activity across the country related to the indictment of former President Trump. While law enforcement is not tracking any specific, credible threats against the Capitol or state offices, there is potential for demonstration activity. USCP is working with law enforcement partners, so you may observe a greater law enforcement presence on Capitol Hill,” the statement reads.
“The SAA and USCP are monitoring the potential nationwide impacts to Senate state offices,” it adds.
The House Sergeant at Arms was conspicuously absent from the statement. Speaker Kevin McCarthy has control over that office.
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Additionally, Axios is reporting, “several House Democrats are allowing staffers to work from home as a safety precaution,” noting that “the memory of Trump supporters ransacking the Capitol on Jan. 6 is still fresh on the mind.”
U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) is allowing staff to work from home for safety reasons. She told Axios, “I don’t ever want to see a Jan. 6 again.”
“I’ve been in the Trump hate tunnel, Donald Trump has gone after me, and quite frankly I don’t have security. I don’t have entourages.”
She’s not the only Democrat to raise concerns.
“Much of the language from the former President and his devotees is similar to what inspired Jan. 6th,” U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips said. “I’m concerned about safety for my colleagues and my staff.”
READ MORE: ‘Lighting the Match’: Marjorie Taylor Greene Blasted for Off the Rails Rant Defending Trump
Meanwhile, House Republicans are issuing full-throated support for Trump and calling for protests.
U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), who was called out by name in a six-page letter Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg sent to Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan Friday morning, announced she will be in New York on Tuesday to support Trump when he is arraigned. She has posted several tweets since Trump was indicted.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy issued a statement Thursday seemingly designed to gin up rage and action in the MAGA base.
“Alvin Bragg has irreparably damaged our country in an attempt to interfere in our Presidential election. As he routinely frees violent criminals to terrorize the public, he weaponized our sacred system of justice against President Donald Trump. The American people will not tolerate this injustice, and the House of Representatives will hold Alvin Bragg and his unprecedented abuse of power to account.”
Image by Elvert Barnes via Flickr and a CC license
Trump Trial Could Go Well Into the 2024 Election – Or Possibly Even Past It: Former Prosecutor
Donald Trump, and all of America, could spend the next 18 months – or longer – engrossed in Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s trial of the ex-president, and that could bring the trial close to Election Day.
That’s according to a former prosecutor in the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office, Charles Coleman, who is now a civil rights attorney and MSNBC legal analyst.
Asked by MSNBC’s Chris Jansing, “How long typically might a case like this take?” Coleman offered a two-tiered answer.
“A case like this is usually going to take a year or a year and a half,” Coleman said.
That could be through September of 2024.
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“Wow,” a surprised Jansing replied. “So it’s going right up into the campaign.”
“Absolutely,” agreed Coleman. “But it’s important to understand I said a case ‘like this.’ This particular case, I expect may take longer because I am anticipating a number of different legal maneuvers by Donald Trump’s defense team.”
That theoretically means into October of 2024, or longer.
“I do see motions to dismiss at a number of different terms, more likely than not to the point that the judge probably will ultimately end up admonishing them and telling them stop filing motions to dismiss. I think that that’s going to happen,” Coleman explained.
“I’ve said before, and I’ll say again, I do believe that we are going to see an attempt to try to change the venue, in this case outside of somewhere in the five boroughs. All of that is going to extend the time deeper and deeper into election season.”
READ MORE: Manhattan DA Unleashes on Jim Jordan With Stern Warning: You May Not ‘Interfere’ With Trump Prosecution
Reuters agrees, reporting Friday morning, “any potential trial is still at minimum more than a year away, legal experts said, raising the possibility that the former U.S. president could face a jury in a Manhattan courtroom during or even after the 2024 presidential campaign, as he seeks a return to the White House.”
And because “Trump’s case is far from typical,” Reuters notes, his trial could extend “past Election Day in November 2024.”
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