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Gay Rights Pioneer Frank Kameny Dead at 86

The LGBT rights movement has lost one of its civil rights heroes and bravest champions. Frank Kameny was found dead at his home today in Washington D.C. He was 86, the Washington Post reports:

KamenyHis death...on National Coming Out Day, came in a year when gay people were accorded the right to serve openly in the armed forces, and D.C. Council member David A. Catania (I-At Large) noted this Tuesday night.

In his efforts throughout the years, Mr. Kameny was one of the fathers of that achievement, said Catania, the first openly gay man elected to the D.C. Council...

...Mr. Kameny was generally credited as an originator of the slogan “Gay Is Good.” Those words symbolized not only his skill at advoacy, but they also the beliefs that he championed.

In numerous ways over the years, starting at a time when those openly asserting their homosexuality could place themselves in physical jeopardy, Mr. Kameny worked to increase the acceptance of gay people in mainstream American society and to recognize their rights.

Among many other things, Kameny helped organize the first gay rights protest in front of the White House in 1965 and founded the Mattachine Society, one of the nation's first gay rights groups.

Kameny2Kameny, a World War II vet, was fired from his job with the U.S. Government in 1957 for being gay. Upon having his papers accepted, he said: "Nearly fifty years ago, the United States Government banned me from employment in public service because I am a homosexual. This archive is not simply my story; it also shows how gay and lesbian Americans have joined the American mainstream story of expanded civil liberties in the 20th century. Today, by accepting these papers, the nation preserves not only our history but marks how far gay and lesbian Americans have traveled on the road to civil equality."

In 2007, Kameny called for mercy for then Idaho Senator Larry Craig, who was caught soliciting sex in a bathroom stall by a Minneapolis police officer. Said Kameny: "Fair is fair. [Craig] was the victim of a false arrest and a malfeasant prosecution."

Kameny's home was declared a historic landmark in 2009, "...not because of its gabled roof or side-hall plan, but because, for 13 fiery years, it was the epicenter of the gay rights movement in the nation's capital," wrote the Washington Post.

Later that year, he received an official apology from White House Office of Personnel Management head, openly gay John Berry, for firing Kameny in 1957 because he was gay.

In June 2010, two blocks of 17th Street NW were renamed 'Frank Kameny Way'.

In December last year, Kameny was seated in the front row as 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' repeal was signed into law, and last May, his papers went on display at the Library of Congress for the first time.

Kameny came out at a time when it was not only extremely brave, but dangerous, and sacrificed much in the process. May he rest in peace.

Watch Kameny talk to AARP and the Washington Blade about activism and his role in the beginning of the gay rights movement, AFTER THE JUMP...

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  1. Rest in peace, Mr. Kameny. A life well-lived by a great American hero. I'm glad he was able to witness so much progress in his lifetime.

    Posted by: justme | Oct 12, 2011 12:04:03 AM

  2. without him, we could not have progressed as far as we have. We need more like him today, as the "regressives" try to deny our human rights and take what we have away! Rest in Peace!

    Posted by: Billy | Oct 12, 2011 12:18:07 AM

  3. We MUST make sure that Frank Kameny is remembered and honored for his role in the Equality movement for us. Right up there with Harvey ... Thanks Mr. Kameny

    Posted by: MarkBoston | Oct 12, 2011 12:39:27 AM

  4. Mr Kameny..I salute you and thank you for having the intestinal fortitude to persevere in your fight for the LGBT community.May you rest in peace and I hope, that we that are left,can carry on the fight.

    Posted by: Nathan | Oct 12, 2011 12:43:35 AM

  5. A great man. Love the point about gay petulance. Here's a guy who worked for justice for fifty years. He knew the meaning of patience. Rest in peace.

    Posted by: Wilberforce | Oct 12, 2011 12:49:37 AM

  6. A job well done! Rest in peace, Frank Kameny!

    Posted by: peterparker | Oct 12, 2011 1:48:36 AM

  7. A true American Hero.

    Posted by: Sargon Bighorn | Oct 12, 2011 2:08:56 AM

  8. A good man! Rest in peace.

    Posted by: rubber gasket | Oct 12, 2011 3:21:08 AM

  9. Sad. I was just reading about him last night. I agree, an American hero.

    Posted by: stingo | Oct 12, 2011 3:43:30 AM

  10. WOW he looks like Ryan Gosling, they should make a biopic and cast him as Frank.

    Posted by: Jake | Oct 12, 2011 5:28:15 AM

  11. Bless him! I'm glad he lived to see a lot of the changes that he and his organizations helped to usher in.

    Posted by: Brian in Texas | Oct 12, 2011 7:36:22 AM

  12. Kameny was from a time when activists faced prosecution. He and his fellow gay rights supporters were true activists in the face of adversity. They differ markedly markedly from today's gay activists. Today's activists are tame and timid, and afraid to kick up a stink beyond a few complaints on the web.

    Most of the modern gay social scene is populated by men who are more interested in achieving multiple orgasms than in fighting for gay rights.

    Posted by: jason | Oct 12, 2011 8:05:51 AM

  13. Nice. I like this post.

    Posted by: research paper | Oct 12, 2011 8:13:05 AM

  14. Yes, it is important that we remember the work that came before us and continue to build on it. Reading his stories, when he found injustice he set himself in motion to fix it. Very simple and inspiring Soul. Thank you Frank!

    Oh, just one note, Frank did not start the Mattachine Society. That was Harry Hay in 1950. Even Frank said that in his interview with MetroWeekly in 2006.

    Posted by: Daya | Oct 12, 2011 8:19:19 AM

  15. A truly courageous man. Rest in Peace.

    Posted by: kit | Oct 12, 2011 8:25:09 AM

  16. Now cracks a noble heart :(

    Posted by: Alex | Oct 12, 2011 8:27:07 AM

  17. I'm embarrassed. I didn't know he existed. And I know a lot about
    american gay history, at least I thought I did. This brings up the point now being debated in california, that of including gay american history in schools. It's excluding history by not teaching it, in effect
    closeting history.

    Posted by: kodiak | Oct 12, 2011 8:46:41 AM

  18. A job well done, sir.

    Posted by: Jesse Archer | Oct 12, 2011 9:03:09 AM

  19. Daya, while Hay, Gernreich and others founded the original Mattachine Society, it was Kameny who started the DC chapter. Regardless, they were all extraordinarily brave and sacrificed a great deal to help us achieve the freedom and success we have today. The only ones left from that generation of pioneers are Del Martin, co-founder of The Daughters of Bilitis, and Jose Sarria, better known as Empress Jose' I, The Widow Norton, who started the Imperial Court system.

    They were such a small handful to blaze a trail for so many of us.

    We can best honor their memory

    Posted by: Smartypants | Oct 12, 2011 9:38:23 AM

  20. Actually, tomorrow there was supposed to be a 50th Anniversary celebration of the founding of the DC Mattachine Society to be put on by the Rainbow History Project.

    Posted by: Charlie | Oct 12, 2011 10:23:17 AM

  21. R.I.P. and thanks for all that you did.

    Posted by: James C | Oct 12, 2011 10:48:32 AM

  22. The people I have always admired the most have been those who thought for themselves and challenged the status quo, not just for the sake of doing so, but because they had an unshakeable belief in themselves and their intellectual convictions.

    Frank Kameny and the other pioneers of the gay movement were characterized by such and deserve to be honored.

    Regrettably, the movement they started has stagnated in recent times as it has lost sight of its true purpose--namely, to bring an end to homophobia and create a space in the social mainstream for gay people--and degenerated instead into a mish-mash of misguided ideologies, which together constitute a form of social anarchy. Many of today's "gay" activists are anti-masculinity rather than anti-homophobia, endorse every kind of non-conformist behavior imaginable--which not only clouds our core message, but tends to alienate people who would otherwise support us, and tout gender-bending and sissyhood in place of encouraging gay men to be strong and courageous and find their rightful places as men in society

    A sad irony that tempers the celebration of the lives of pioneers like Frank. We started out so well but have lost our way, I am afraid.

    Posted by: Rick | Oct 12, 2011 10:54:34 AM

  23. A deep bow of respect and gratitude, Frank. And a big kiss on the forehead. Bless you.

    Posted by: Aaron | Oct 12, 2011 12:05:48 PM

  24. A true hero. Rest in Peace Mr. Kameny.

    Posted by: Mel Smith | Oct 12, 2011 12:44:36 PM

  25. This is why the CA SB48 LGBT history bill is so important. I am so awed by the bravery, insight, intelligence and overwhelming humanity and amazing accomplishments of our LGBT brothers and sisters. Their stories need to be taught in our schools.

    I can only imagine what my teenage years would have been like had I known about Alan Turing, Frank Kameny, Harvey Milk and so many others. Even now, I feel pride and confidence when I read about these incredible leaders.

    Frank and his accomplishments will not be forgotten and his story will continue to motivate countless people around the world to push for their fundamental human rights.

    May he rest in peace.

    Posted by: Xavi | Oct 12, 2011 12:47:29 PM

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