Frank Kameny to Be Inducted Into U.S. Department of Labor’s Hall of Honor
If you’ve been paying attention to the news surrounding this summer’s celebration of the 50th anniversary of the LGBT civil rights movement, you’ve heard Frank Kameny‘s name. He, along with Barbara Gittings and other activists, organized the first Annual Reminder—which has been recognized as the nation’s first LGBT civil rights protest—outside Independence Hall in 1965.
During Pride month, the U.S. Department of Labor will honor his efforts to promote equality and end discrimination in the workforce by inducting him into its Hall of Honor. The tribute is shared by only a handful of people, including Edward M. Kennedy, Frances Perkins, Bayard Rustin, and Dolores Huerta, “who have made life-changing contributions in the field of labor, elevating working conditions, wages, and the overall quality of life of America’s working families.”
A press release from the U.S. Department of Labor details Kameny’s contributions:
A World War II veteran and Harvard-educated doctor of astronomy with the U.S. Army Map Service, Kameny was discharged and barred from federal government employment in 1958 after U.S. Civil Service Commission investigators asked if he was a homosexual.
Kameny fought the injustice, eventually taking his case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which denied his petition in 1961. The setback led him to become a co-founder of the first gay rights organization in Washington, D.C., and began his tireless fight to force the nation’s largest employer – the federal government – to end discrimination in its employment practices based on sexual orientation.
His activism led to the first gay demonstration for equal rights at the White House in 1965. Kameny later coined the slogan, “Gay is Good,” to combat negative stereotypes of gay and lesbian people and, in 1971, became the first openly gay candidate for Congress. That year, he also publicly challenged the scientific validity of the American Psychiatric Association’s theories on homosexuality as a mental disorder at its national meeting.
Founder of the Gay Activist Alliance (now the Gay and Lesbian Activist Alliance), Kameny and his fellow organizers campaigned relentlessly. Slowly, decisions in federal courts helped foster change. In 1975, almost two decades after he was fired by the Army, the Civil Service Commission announced it would no longer exclude homosexuals from government employment. Twenty years later, President Bill Clinton signed an executive order to allow lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees to hold security clearances and high government positions.
When Kameny died in 2011 at the age of 86, we spoke to Equality Forum Executive Director Malcolm Lazin, who called him the father of the LGBT civil rights movement. “When the annual reminders took place, gays and lesbians were denied employment by the federal government,” says Lazin. “Frank Kameny was single-handedly responsible through remarkable intensity and perseverance in having the United States Civil Service Commission end the prohibition of gays and lesbians from government service.”
He will be inducted into the Hall of Honor on June 23rd at the Department of Labor’s Francis Perkins Building. Read a more local-centric bio of Kameny here.