December 23, 2010

Franklin Kameny, Age 85, Witnesses History

Yesterday, President Obama made good on his promise to repeal the ban on gays and lesbians serving in the US military.  It was not easy and the President deserves a great deal of credit for his persistence and tenacity in making this hateful policy history.  It was a landmark day for civil rights in this country.  And on hand to witness it, along with hundreds of servicemembers and activists was an 85 year old man that not many people took note of....Franklin Kameny.

If you don't know his name, you should as Kameny is one of the true founding fathers of the gay rights movement.  After being dishonorably discharged from the Army for being gay in the 1950s, he fought and argued his case all the way to the Supreme Court making his the first civil rights claim based on sexual orientation.  After losing, Kameny didn't give up. He staged some of the first protests and pickets for gay rights way back in the early 1960s.  Wearing his trademark white shirt and tie, Kameny's daring attempts to bring the discrimination against gays and lesbians to the nation's attention was bold given the times he was living in, when homosexuality was a crime in many states and homosexuals considered mentally deficient deviants.

There were surprisingly few mentions of Kameny's presence in national articles today about the signing ceremony.  But only one, Washington's nightlife mag MetroWeekly, actually got a quote from him and it was a good one: "I didn't think I'd live to see it." Frankly, I doubted it myself at times this year.  But finally "it's done," as Obama said slapping the table as he put down his presidential pen.  And now that we can fight and die equally for our country, you can bet the chorus of voices who will want to live and love equally will continue to grow.  How wonderful would it be for Franklin Kameny to see marriage equality in his lifetime?