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Friday, October 14, 2011

Frank Kameny: The Martin Luther King of the Gay Rights Movement Dies

As I have blogged before I feel that the gay rights movement is the civil rights movement of our time.  We unfortunately see that the acceptance of gay marriage and service in the military having to follow the same difficult path that interracial marriage and military service followed 50 and 60 years ago with African Americans.  I know that some people might be offended at linking Martin Luther King and Frank Kameny but they each represented a person who stood up to injustice at a time before there was an organized movement that brought attention to a cause that lead to breaking down the walls of prejudice.  On Wednesday Frank Kameny died still unknown to most of the general public.
Wikipedia gives this description of his early activism,
“ Franklin Edward "Frank" Kameny (May 21, 1925 – October 11, 2011) was "one of the most significant figures" in the American gay rights movement. In 1957, Kameny was dismissed from his position as an astronomer in the Army Map Service in Washington, D.C. because of his homosexuality, leading him to begin "a Herculean struggle with the American establishment" that would "spearhead a new period of militancy in the homosexual rights movement of the early 1960s. Kameny protested his firing by the U.S. Civil Service Commission due to his homosexuality, and argued this case to the United States Supreme Court in 1961. Although the court denied his petition, it is notable as the first civil rights claim based on sexual orientation.

In August 1961, Kameny and Jack Nichols co-founded the Mattachine Society of Washington, an organization that pressed aggressively for gay and lesbian civil rights. In 1963 the group was the subject of Congressional hearings initiated by Congressman John Dowdy over its right to solicit funds.
Kameny is credited with bringing an aggressive new tone to the gay civil rights struggle. Kameny and the Mattachine Society of Washington pressed for fair and equal treatment of gay employees in the federal government by fighting security clearance denials, employment restrictions and dismissals, and working with other groups to press for equality for gay citizens. In 1968, Kameny, inspired by Stokely Carmichael's creation of the phrase "Black is Beautiful", created the slogan "Gay is Good" for the gay civil rights movement.

Kameny and Nichols launched some of the earliest public protests by gays and lesbians with a picket line at the White House on April 17, 1965.  In coalition with New York's Mattachine Society and the Daughters of Bilitis, the picketing expanded to target the United Nations, the Pentagon, the United States Civil Service Commission, and to Philadelphia's Independence Hall for what became known as the Annual Reminder for gay rights.”

Fortunately Frank lived to attend the ceremony this year when the President signed the repeal of don’t ask, don’t tell.

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