Legendary gay rights activist Frank Kameny died yesterday of natural causes at the age of 86. Kameny was one of, if not the, most influential activists in the American gay rights movement of the 1960s. In 1957, Frank was discharged from the Army for homosexuality and fought his discharge all the way to the Supreme Court in 1961. The court unfortunately denied his petition but his case was historic in that it was the first-ever civil rights claim based on sexual orientation.
In August of 1961, Kameny co-founded the Mattachine Society with Jack Nichols and they are credited with bringing a new aggressive tone to gay rights activism. They staged the first gay and lesbian public picket line protests at the White House on April 17, 1965. Frank also worked tirelessly to have homosexuality removed from the American Psychiatric Association’s manual of mental disorders, and it was removed on March 26, 1977. He was the first openly gay member of the District of Columbia’s Human Rights Commission and he served 20 years on the Selective Service board, remaining active in the gay rights movement well into his senior years.
In 2007, Kameny once again proved the protections and freedoms he fought for his whole life applied to everyone in the gay community, not just those who shared his political philosophy. Kameny defended a man many in the gay community – including himself – despised. He wrote a letter in defense of Republican Larry Craig, who had been arrested for sex solicitation in a Minneapolis airport bathroom stall. “I am no admirer of Larry Craig and hold out no brief for him. He is a self-deluding hypocritical homophobic bigot. But fair is fair. He committed no crime in Minneapolis and should not suffer as if he did.” Frank Kameny’s life was a life well lived, and the freedoms all of us within the modern LGBT community now enjoy are his legacy. Thank you, Frank Kameny. Thank you so very much. RIP. (via Frank Kameny Wikipedia page; photo: Frank Kameny in 1948)