Summersgill presents tribute to Frank Kameny

75th Birthday Tribute to Franklin E. Kameny

Presented by GLAA President Bob Summersgill

GLAA 29th Anniversary Reception
Doyle Washington Hotel
Thursday, April 27, 2000

GLAA, like the gay movement itself, owes its existence, direction, and philosophy to Dr. Frank Kameny.

Frank in 1957 found himself thrust into a political situation with only the support of a frightened, hidden, deferential group of people convinced that they were sick, sinners and criminals.

Frank changed all of that and personally convinced thousands of people who in turn taught millions of people how right he was.

Frank lost his job as an astronomer at the Army Map Service for being gay.

We can only guess that this Harvard educated WWII combat veteran would have kept us from bombing the Chinese embassy, or converted English units to metric and saved a Mars probe.

Frank quickly found that he couldn't get any other work in his field. He did what any good American would do. He sued.

Unfortunately, times being what they were, he lost and then lost his appeal, and then lost his lawyer. While any sensible person would have given up, Frank took his case to the US Supreme Court in which he made up the often quoted 10% figure for the population of gay people. The Supreme Court declined to hear his case.

This started Frank on a nearly 50 year effort to remove homosexuality as a reason to deny security clearances and the continuing fight to allow gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military.

In 1961, Frank organized the first gay organization in DC, the Mattachine Society, and with it, gay activism and militancy nationally.

In 1965 he held the first of many gay protests at the White House. Frank gave us a tradition of protests with a dress code. Men in suits, women in skirts and transgender people... sorry Jessica, that came later.

Frank's protests were well received by the secret service and the police. They were polite and orderly.

"What a nice group of people" as my Dad commented 28 years later at the 1993 March on Washington.

Frank held protests at the Pentagon and sent newsletters to J. Edgar Hoover. Although Hoover monitored Frank's activities closely, he none-the-less asked to be removed from the mailing list.

Frank politicized groups and people around the country, and organized national and regional conferences. He wrote the original gay agenda, which is nearly indistinguishable from our goals 35 years later: marriage, military, passage of non-discrimination laws, and the repeal of sodomy laws.

Frank taught the others in the early movement that we are the experts on ourselves and coined the phrase, "Gay is Good," while simplistic covered all of the regular attacks on gays: that we are sick, sinners and criminals.

He examined the medical & psychological data on homosexuality. He looked at it with the trained eye of a scientist and found it to be nothing but bias and prejudice, accepted as fact, but in fact it was all garbage.

Frank got the American Psychological Association to declare that homosexuality is not a mental illness. Possibly the biggest cure in medical history. Even Dr. Salk had to immunize us one at a time.

He started a campaign that repealed the DC Sodomy law 30 years, 1 month, 5 days and 11 hours later in 1993. A law, similar to others in all 50 states that declared 95% of all adult Americans felons, but applied almost exclusively against gays.

After Stonewall in 1969, Frank took opportunity of the huge increase in out and militant gays to run for Congress. Why start small? His 1971 campaign forced gay issues into the news for the first time in a serious and respectful way.

His campaign formed into the Gay Activists Alliance, later the Gay and Lesbian Activist Alliance.

Frank went on to attend, if not direct, nearly every meeting in the past 29 years.

Frank co-founded the NGTF, the National Gay Rights Lobby (a precursor to the Human Rights Campaign), Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, and a host of other organizations.

In 1975 he served as Commissioner on the DC Commission on Human Rights as the first openly gay municipal appointee to any position in DC.

He continues to be actively involved in GLAA and various gay-related issues both nationally and particularly locally as a resource person, a walking history book and as always as an activist.

Frank, Happy 75th Birthday!


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