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October 21, 2011

Frank Kameny, a father of the LGBT movement, dies at 86

Washington, D.C.--Frank Kameny, one of the founding fathers of the LGBT equal rights movement, was found dead in his home on October 11, National Coming Out Day.

Kameny’s housemate found his body in bed at around 5:30 pm. The 86-year-old icon died in his sleep.

His history of gay advocacy began after being fired from the Army Map Service in 1957 because of his homosexuality. He took the case all the way to the Supreme Court, but was unsuccessful in challenging his dismissal.

He co-founded the Washington, D.C. chapter of the Mattachine Society and in 1965, four years after the group’s founding, picketed the White House.

Kameny was one of the movers behind the removal of homosexuality from the American Psychiatric Association’s list of mental disorders in 1973. He and Barbara Gittings successfully worked in 1974 to keep a gay Defense Department employee from losing his security clearance.

Kameny’s house has been denoted an historical landmark, and efforts are underway to introduce his papers into the Library of Congress. In 2009, his years of struggle were belatedly vindicated when he received a government apology for his firing.

John Berry, the director of the Office of Personnel Management said, “Dr. Frank Kameny was an American hero who transformed our nation’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. His courage, his brilliance, his force of will led to victory in a decades-long fight for equality. He helped make it possible for countless of patriotic Americans to hold security clearances and high government positions, including me. And in so doing, he showed everyone what was possible for every employer in our country.”

“I am grateful for his life, his service to his nation in World War II, and his passion and persistence in helping build a more perfect union,” concluded Berry, who is openly gay himself. “He was a great man, and I will sorely miss him.”

“America has lost a hero today,” said American Foundation for Equal Rights board president Chad Griffin. “Out and proud, Frank Kameny was fighting for equality long before the rest of us knew we could. Because there was one Frank Kameny, trailblazing and honest enough to speak out 50 years ago, there are now millions of Americans, coming out, speaking out and fighting for their basic civil rights. His is a legacy of bravery and tremendous impact and will live on in the hearts and minds of every American who values equality and justice.”

The Human Rights Campaign’s Joe Solmonese opined, “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.”

“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,” said National Gay and Lesbian Task Force executive director Rea Carey. “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,” she concluded, ending with a phrase Kameny coined. “Indeed, Frank, gay is good.”

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