The LGBT community mourns the death of Frank Kameny

LGBT pioneer Frank Kameny

By W. Badmin
The Washington Blade

Several LGBT rights organizations have released statements following the announcement of Frank Kameny’s passing. Many of these groups continue the work that Frank began when he fought back against his termination in 1957 from the Army Map Service. Frank will always be remembered for coining the term “Gay is good” in the 1960s through his work with the Mattachine Society.

Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund:

Frank Kameny, one of the most significant figures in the modern LGBT civil rights movement, has died, according to a report in the Washington Blade tonight.

In 1961 Kameny founded the Mattachine Society of Washington – one of the earliest LGBT rights organizations in the U.S. – pre-dating the Stonewall riots by nearly a decade. Kameny’s activism sprang from his termination from a federal government position because of his sexual orientation. He received an official apology from the federal government after President Barack Obama took office in 2009.


Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund President and CEO Chuck Wolfe issued the following statement tonight:

“We mourn the loss of a hero and a founding father of the fight to end discrimination against LGBT people. Dr. Kameny stood up for this community when doing so was considered unthinkable and even shocking, and he continued to do so throughout his life. He spoke with a clear voice and firm conviction about the humanity and dignity of people who were gay, long before it was safe for him to do so. All of us who today endeavor to complete the work he began a half century ago are indebted to Dr. Kameny and his remarkable bravery and commitment.”


Human Rights Campaign:

Upon the news that LGBT equality pioneer Frank Kameny has died, Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese issued the following statement:

“Frank Kameny led an extraordinary life marked by heroic activism that set a path for the modern LGBT civil rights movement. From his early days fighting institutionalized discrimination in the federal workforce, Dr. Kameny taught us all that ‘Gay is Good.’ As we say goodbye to this trailblazer on National Coming Out Day, we remember the remarkable power we all have to change the world by living our lives like Frank — openly, honestly and authentically.”

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.


Diego Sanchez, Senior Legislative Advisor to Rep. Barney Frank:

For Frank Kameny to die on National Coming Out Day, Oct. 11, 2011, feels to me like my Dad dying on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2000 — when a career-long, victorious warrior went to God on a day that best represents his contribution to our country and American lives everywhere; the day will always represent both the symbol and the man, with honor and hope.


Federal GLOBE: Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Employees of the Federal Government:

An American Hero has passed away.

Frank Kameny died today at 86. Frank served his country his whole life. In the military, in government service, and in making the country a more perfect union when the government he fought for and toiled for fired him. Frank was fired just for being gay. He had done nothing untoward, not been a threat. Rather he was working on important technology which his removal from government service delayed for decades.

But Frank did not get bitter. He did what American’s have done since our founding—he righted the wrong. It did not come quickly or easily. Frank fought his dismissal all of the way to the Supreme Court. Frank fought the Civil Service Commission. Frank fought for the rights of every American to lead a good life. Frank was a leader for the LGBT movement when leaders were hard to find and paid dearly. Frank paid dearly.

Frank was the reason for Federal GLOBE to get started. Frank was our inspiration and was our father. He was our mother. He was our fairy/angel/mentor/pathblazer/blinding light. Frank was our inspiration. His meticulous research and articulation paved the way for LGBT civil rights advancements over the last 25 years.


Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation:

NEW YORK, NY — The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) today issued the following statement following news that LGBT advocacy pioneer Frank Kameny died in his Washington, D.C. home:

“Frank Kameny sparked national change and set the example for gay and lesbian Americans to live their lives openly and proudly,” said Mike Thompson, Acting President of GLAAD. “He taught us the power that our visibility and stories have in changing hearts and minds. Today on National Coming Out Day, we honor Frank’s legacy not only by remembering this pioneer, but by continuing his work to speak out and share our own stories.”

Frank Kameny is recognized as one of the pioneers of the modern LGBT advocacy movement. After being dismissed from the U.S. Civil Service Commission for being gay, he argued the first civil rights claim based on sexual orientation before the United States Supreme Court in 1961. Together with Jack Nichols, he co-founded the Mattachine Society of Washington and launched the first public demonstrations by gay and lesbian Americans at the White House in 1965. Kameny was appointed as the first openly gay member of D.C.’s Human Rights Commission and was a U.S. Army veteran of World War II.


In 2007, the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History included his picket signs from the White House demonstration. Papers documenting his life were added to the Library of Congress in 2006. In 2009, Kameny received the Theodore Roosevelt Award.

National Center for Lesbian Rights:

SAN FRANCISCO, CA — One of the most prominent leaders of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender equality movement—Dr. Frank Kameny—passed away at his Washington D.C.-area home today. He was 86.

In 1957, Kameny was dismissed from his position as an astronomer in the Army Map Service because he was gay, motivating him at the time to become a leading voice in the movement for equality and justice. He protested his firing and appealed his case to the U.S. Supreme Court, becoming the first known gay person to file a gay-related case before the high court.

Although the court denied his petition, the decision prompted Kameny to devote much of his life to LGBT advocacy.


Statement by NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell, Esq.:

“Frank Kameny is among a small group of brave and uncompromising men and women without whom the modern civil rights movement for LGBT equality would have faltered. At a time when most lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals lived deeply shadowed and closeted lives, he stepped into the bright glare of public scrutiny and hostility and demanded respect and cultural evolution. It is fitting that his passing would happen on Coming Out Day. Were it not for his coming out, many of us would still be living a lie.”


American Foundation for Equal Rights:

“Out and Proud, Kameny Was Fighting For Equality Long Before the Rest Of Us Knew We Could”

Los Angeles, CA – Today, America lost a legendary civil rights pioneer. The staff and board of directors at the American Foundation for Equal Rights extend heartfelt condolences to the friends and family of LGBT rights pioneer Franklin E. Kameny, who died of natural causes in his home today at the age of 86.

His passing comes less than a month before the planned celebration of the 50th anniversary of Kameny’s founding of the Mattachine Society of Washington, the first gay rights organization in the nation’s capital.

President of AFER’s board of directors, Chad Griffin, released the following statement about Mr. Kameny and the long legacy of hope and optimism he leaves behind, “America has lost a hero today. Out and proud, Frank Kameny was fighting for equality long before the rest of us knew we could.” He added, “Because there was one Frank Kameny, trailblazing and honest enough to speak out 50 years ago, there are now millions of Americans, coming out, speaking out and fighting for their basic civil rights. His is a legacy of bravery and tremendous impact and will live on in the hearts and minds of every American who values equality and justice.”

In the landmark ruling striking down Proposition 8, the U.S. District Court referenced the efforts of Frank Kameny and the Mattachine Society to chronicle the long and shameful history of state-enforced discrimination against gay and lesbian Americans. In particular, the Court cited the famous 1966 letter from the chairman of the U.S. Civil Service Commission rejecting the Mattachine Society’s request to rescind the policy banning “active homosexuals” from federal employment.


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