October 13, 2011
Frank Kameny, champion of LGBT rights. Credit: boxturtlebulletin.com.
Frank Kameny, longtime D.C. gay activist and founder of Mattachine Society of Washington -- one of the earliest LGBT rights organizations in the U.S. -- passed away Tuesday from an apparent heart attack. Kameny was known as one of the founding fathers of the gay rights movement and was an outspoken advocate for gay and lesbian citizens to live their lives in the open. Ironically, he passed away on National Coming Out Day, an informal day for gay and lesbians to "come out of the closet." Kameny was known as the person who coined the phrase "Gay is Good." He was 86 years old.
Dr. Kameny was a government astronomer who was fired for being gay in 1957. He fought the decision through letter writing and sued in lower courts. He lost the case but that didn't stop him from writing a brilliant brief in 1961 that is regarded as the first civil rights claim based on sexual orientation. Kameny also led protests at the White House and the Pentagon among other places. Kameny received a formal apology in 2009 from the U.S. Civil Service Commission for being fired based on sexual orientation. Councilmember-at-large David Catania (I) remembered Kameny as a strong leader who wouldn't back down. "He was a stubborn and impatient person, and that was the recipe for his success," Catania said. "He was never going to be content with second-class citizenship."
Frank Kameny was a fearless and charismatic leader in the gay community. It was mistakenly reported that he died from an infection caused by having AIDS in 2007. The publication who printed the report retracted it. Kameny's reaction to the news: "Did you give a date of death?" Whitman-Walker Health, in Northwest, issued a statement yesterday about Kameny's death stating "Frank was a true pioneer and leader in the fight for equal rights for the LGBT community. There are not words strong enough to describe the breadth and depth of his accomplishments."
Rest in peace Dr. Kameny. Your legacy shall live on.