Remembering the Legacy of LGBT Leader Frank Kameny

Franklin E. Kameny, one of the nation’s most prominent gay rights leaders, died in his sleep yesterday, on National Coming Out Day. He was 86.

Thirteen years before the landmark repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Kameny was fired from his position as an astronomer in the Army Map Service because he was gay. He became the first known gay person to file a gay-related case before the Supreme Court, but his petition was denied.  The Court’s decision motivated him to become a leading voice in the movement for equality and justice and a lifelong advocate for LGBT equality.

Gay rights advocates and allies are mourning the loss of one of the movement’s most inspiring leaders.

“Frank Kameny was a trailblazer on the path to equal rights for all. His legacy lies in the hearts of countless millions of people who are so much better off today because of the courage and commitment he has relentlessly shown over 50 years of activism, all the people who can live with a freedom and an honesty that was hard to imagine just a few short decades ago when he first stood up. There is still more to be done — more hearts and minds to be changed — but the cause he set in motion will continue on at an unstoppable pace.”

Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

“Frank Kameny led an extraordinary life marked by heroic activism that set a path for the modern LGBT civil rights movement. From his early days fighting institutionalized discrimination in the federal workforce, Dr. Kameny taught us all that ‘Gay is Good.’ As we say goodbye to this trailblazer on National Coming Out Day, we remember the remarkable power we all have to change the world by living our lives like Frank — openly, honestly and authentically.”

Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign

“The death of Frank Kameny is a profound loss and he will be greatly missed. No Washington LGBT event or White House meeting was complete without Frank. I always appreciated that he gave the 50-plus-year perspective, the long view. While so many have been impatient about the pace of progress, there was Frank, insisting we recognize that, in the last two years, he was regularly invited as a guest of honor by the very government that fired him simply for being gay. Yet, he never slowed down in demanding what should be, showing us what was possible and pushing for the very equality and liberation we are still fighting for. As the history books are written on the LGBT movement, no doubt Frank’s life will serve as an inspiration to those who will never have the honor of meeting him, but who embody the very future he knew would come true one day. Indeed, Frank, Gay is Good.”

Rea Carey, Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

“Frank Kameny’s life spanned the baddest old days of the McCarthy-style witch hunts to the elations of winning marriage equality in the District of Columbia and beyond. In 1957, Frank lost his job, but he never lost his fierce fighting spirit, his blunt and witty command of language, or his commitment to eradicating homophobia. Frank was equally confident and strategic on the streets in front of the White House in 1965 as he was attending a White House meeting in 1977 at which he and a dozen other members of our community briefed then-Public Liaison Midge Costanza on much-needed changes in federal laws and policies. As the LGBT movement began to win in legislatures, courtrooms, and in public opinion, Frank’s papers, artifacts and memories gained value. Frank Kameny wasn’t only a keeper of our history, Frank created our history. His life and legacy carry us into our future.”

Sue Hyde, director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change

“Frank Kameny sparked national change and set the example for gay and lesbian Americans to live their lives openly and proudly. He taught us the power that our visibility and stories have in changing hearts and minds. Today on National Coming Out Day, we honor Frank’s legacy not only by remembering this pioneer, but by continuing his work to speak out and share our own stories.”

Mike Thompson, acting president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation