Frank Kameny, the pioneering LGBT advocate whose firing from the Army Map Service for being gay in 1957 sparked decades of activism, was honored with a memorial viewing yesterday at Washington DC’s prestigious Carnegie Library. Attendees included DC Mayor Vincent Gray, City Council members David Catania and Jim Graham, Lt. Dan Choi, John Berry (the openly gay director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management), Kameny’s close friends Charles Francis and Bob Witeck, and hundreds of allies, admirers and activists.
D.C. Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton compared Kameny’s efforts to those of a beloved civil-rights heroine. “Rosa Parks got tired of suppressing her full identity and her full dignity. So did Frank Kameny… There is a special place in our country for people like Frank Kameny. The phrase he coined, ‘Gay is Good,’ is every bit as significant as Black is Beautiful.”
A flag-draped casket in the center of the room was flanked by bold-type protest signs that became synonymous with Kameny and, like his coined slogan “Gay is Good,” have enduring resonance. To the left of the casket, one such specimen read, “Homosexuals ask for the right to the pursuit of happiness.”
Kameny certainly pursued that right throughout his life. Below, Rachel Maddow recounts his efforts in a tribute taped shortly after his death on October 11 at age 86.