Leave it to longtime gay-rights activist Frank Kameny to pass away on National Coming Out Day. A staunch advocate since before Stonewall, Kameny, 86, was never one to miss a chance to seize the moment or make himself heard. He was after all, the man who coined the phrase “Gay is Good.”
The government really brought it on itself.
When Kameny was fired him from his position with the U.S. Army Map Service in 1957 for being a homosexual, it lit a fire under him. “My dismissal amounted to a declaration against me by the government,” he once said. Kameny, a veteran of WWII, sued for his job back. He lost, but appealed—again and again—until finally the Supreme Court denied his petition in 1961.
That was the beginning.
Kameny spent the next 50 years on the front lines of the LGBT movement. Co-founding the Washington, DC branch of the Mattachine Society, he worked tirelessly to push the government to remove sexual orientation as a barrier for employment in the civil service, for the granting of security clearance and for serving in the Armed Forces. (The U.S. Civil Service Commission finally changed its policies to allow out gays and lesbians to be hired for government jobs in 1975.)
He led Mattachine Society pickets of the Capital and other government offices, was appointed to Washington’s Human Rights Commission and even ran for Congress—the first openly gay man to do so. In 1963, the Mattachine Society started pushing the District to overturn its sodomy laws. (They succeeded, finally, in 1993.)