Who Was Frank Kameny?

Frank Kameny

Frank Kameny

 Franklin Edward Kameny was an American LGBT rights activist.

He has been named "one of the most powerful figures" in the United States' LGBT rights movement.

Because of his homosexuality, Kameny was dismissed from the United States Army's Army Map Service in Washington, D.C. in 1957, leading him to engage in "a Herculean struggle with the American establishment" that would "spearhead a new era of militancy in the early 1960s homosexual rights movement."

Kameny's dismissal by the US government was contested in court.

Despite its defeat, the case was significant because it was the first documented civil rights lawsuit based on sexual orientation in the United States. 

Early years 

Frank Kameny was born in New York City to parents who were Ashkenazi Jews.

 Richmond Hill High School, where he graduated in 1941, was his alma mater.

When Kameny was 16 years old, he began studying physics at Queens College, City University of New York, and notified his parents that he was an atheist when he was 17 years old.
Before completing his education, he was drafted by the US Army.
During World War II, he served in the Army in Europe and then for 20 years on the Selective Service Board.
 After leaving the army, he went to Queens College and graduated in 1948 with a bachelor's degree in physics.

The next year, Kameny worked as a teaching fellow at Harvard University, where he refused to sign a loyalty pledge without qualifiers and questioned established orthodoxies.

In 1949, he received his master's degree in astronomy, and in 1956, he received his doctorate.

A Photoelectric Study of Some RV Tauri and Yellow Semiregular Variables was the title of his PhD thesis, which was supervised by Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin. 

Activism for gay rights 

 On April 17, 1965, Kameny and Jack Nichols, a fellow co-founder of the Mattachine Society's Washington, D.C. chapter, held one of the first public demonstrations by homosexuals and lesbians with a picket line at the White House.

In conjunction with New York's Mattachine Society and the Daughters of Bilitis, the picketing extended to involve the United Nations, the Pentagon, the United States Civil Service Commission, and Philadelphia's Independence Hall for what became known as the Annual Reminder for homosexual rights.

Kameny also wrote to President John F. Kennedy, urging that the rules prohibiting gays from serving in the military be altered.

When he ran in the District of Columbia's inaugural election for a non-voting Congressional delegate in 1971, Kameny made history as the first openly homosexual candidate for the US Congress.

Following his loss to Democrat Walter E. Fauntroy, Kameny and his team formed the Gay and Lesbian Alliance of Washington, D.C., which continues to petition the government and advocate for equal rights. 

 Frank Kameny's Achievements

 His effort to get the American Psychiatric Association cease categorizing homosexuality as a "mental illness," which it did in 1973, is one of his most noteworthy accomplishments.

The Civil Service Commission ultimately lifted its prohibition on LGBTQ employees two years later.

He also pushed to remove the sodomy prohibitions in Washington, DC, which didn't happen until 1993.
 Kameny was honored at the highest levels for his services to LGBTQ equality after a half-century of advocacy.

In 2009, he got an official apology from the US government for his dismissal in 1958.


 In his latter years, Kameny battled heart illness but kept a busy schedule of public appearances, the last of which was a lecture to an LGBT organization in Washington, D.C. on September 30, 2011.

On October 11, 2011, Kameny was discovered deceased in his Washington residence (National Coming Out Day).

Natural causes of death related to arteriosclerotic cardiovascular disease were determined by the medical examiner.

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