Brave gay rights activist Frank Kameny was front and center when President Obama signed the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" into law last week. CNN runs down on what Kameny has done for the gay rights movement over the last several decades.
A seat at the front of the audience was reserved for 85-year-old Frank Kameny, who attended wearing the Combat Infantryman Badge that he was awarded for his service in World War II. Kameny recalls his service fighting in the wake of the Battle of the Bulge by saying, "I dug my way across Europe slit trench by slit trench, practically."
But Kameny was not invited because of any heroism he demonstrated in World War II, but rather for a much greater act of courage than even that conflict had demanded of him. He was invited because it was Kameny who began the assault on the military policy of discharging homosexuals by leading a demonstration at the Pentagon in 1965.
Kameny succeeded to an astonishing degree. He led the fight for tactics such as public demonstrations, went on the attack against the Civil Service Commission for its policy of firing homosexuals and spearheaded an effort to get the homophile movement to take the position that homosexuality was not only not a mental illness but was on a par with heterosexuality. In 1968, he got the only existing national association of gay rights organizations to adopt as its slogan a phrase that Kameny had coined, "Gay Is Good." Kameny himself had been discharged from the Army Map Service in 1957 for being gay.
Last year, Kameny received an official apology from the White House Office of Personnel Management for firing him in 1957 because he was gay.
He's also received some much-deserved recognition from the city of Washington, DC. His home in that city has been declared an historic landmark and 17th Street has since been renamed Frank Kameny Way in his honor.