Frank Kameny | John Berry | News

OPM director John Berry Talks About Changing Face of Gay Rights, Late Partner in Speech to UMD Grads: VIDEO


On May 20, John Berry, the out Director of the U.S. Office of Personnel and Management gave the commencement address at the University of Maryland. Berry told grads about the changing face of the LGBT rights movement, and  pioneering activist Frank Kameny, who was fired for his federal job for being gay.

In 1957 – not long before I was born – a man named Frank Kameny was fired from his Federal job, just for being gay. This was a man who fought his way across Europe in World War II, came home, got a Harvard Ph.D., and was told he was unfit to serve. In fact that every gay person was a security risk. He was called a criminal and a pervert by the head of the Civil Service – the precursor to the office I hold.

Frank fought back. He was the first American who did. All the way to the Supreme Court. He lost. But he persisted. He joined together with allies, and slowly – at times very slowly – he changed opinions and changed laws.

Berry also spoke of his late partner:

When I came out, my Dad asked me to never bring my partner to the house. This was hard because we were a close family, that gathered every Sunday for dinner, even after we'd all left home. Ten years later, when my partner was dying of AIDS, it was my father, a man who survived the Great Depression and Guadalcanal, who held him in his arms weeping, and saying "I love you like my own son."

Wounds do heal. Minds do change.

That is the value of truth. It lays a bedrock of certainty that the sand of half-truths can never rival. Be true to yourself and your values, because the world needs the whole you.

Watch (gay rights segment starts at 7:00), AFTER THE JUMP...

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  1. Wow. Just wow!

    Posted by: secret identity | May 29, 2012 2:50:54 PM

  2. I was there at the speech since my sister was graduating. It was a really moving speech and I was close to tears. The people sitting in front of me, unfortunately, showed visible signs of awkwardness. Maybe one day stories like Berry's will be universal.

    Posted by: Michael | May 29, 2012 4:06:49 PM

  3. Perhaps we need to stop calling this behavior "homophobia" & give it the lable it truly is & deserves—"homoechthra" i.e. hatred of homosexuals

    Posted by: RML | May 29, 2012 4:36:08 PM

  4. I grew up near this guy, we went to the same University for the same 4 years; he continues to live in DC - why have we never met?

    Posted by: Alan | May 29, 2012 5:58:59 PM

  5. Hmmm...the same OPM Director that doesn't recognize my same-sex partner as my spouse. How can I be "true to myself" if you don't allow me to do so?

    Posted by: Pedro Delgado | May 29, 2012 6:54:53 PM

  6. Very moving. @Michael - I would take that awkwardness as a badge of honor. It proves we have people willing to press the issue despite discomfort, right?

    @Pedro - no, it is DOMA that doesn't recognize your same-sex partner as your spouse. We are governed and bound by laws, not dictators. The best that a federal agency head can do is expand benefits as far as they are able to under existing law (which Berry has done with same-sex benefits and gender identity protections) and recognize that a law is unconstitutional and stop defending it in court - which Berry and Obama did with Golinsky vs. OPM...paving the way for same-sex spousal benefits in that case. DOMA will need to be repealed or thrown out by courts in order for your spouse to be called your spouse under federal law. In the meantime, thank god people like Berry press the law as far as they legally can.

    Posted by: Peter | May 29, 2012 9:03:18 PM

  7. He's great

    Posted by: KFLO | May 30, 2012 12:30:49 AM

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