Dr. Franklin Edward Kameny was born in New York City on May 21, 1925. The events in his life would lead him through many trials, and give him opportunity to rise above them to become a pioneer of the LGBT rights movement.
Before Prop 8, before DOMA, before ENDA, before DADT, there was Kameny, standing before the Supreme Court arguing that dismissal from a position based on one’s sexual orientation was unjust and unconstitutional.
At the age of 16, Kameny went to Queens College to study astronomy. Before he could finish his degree, he was drafted to the Army and served in the Netherlands and Germany during World War II.
In 1956, Kameny finally received his doctorate degree in astronomy from Harvard University.
Dr. Kameny was then hired by the US Army Map Service to work for them as an astronomer. However, he only lasted in the position for five months. He was fired after he was arrested in Lafayette Park in Washington D.C., a location widely known at the time as a spot for gay cruising.
He was questioned by his superiors, but refused to divulge to them his sexual orientation. He was fired, and in January 1958, barred from future employment by the federal government.
Kameny took his unfair dismissal to trial and argued his case to the United States Supreme Court in 1961. Although he was not victorious, he became a central figure and driving force leading the LGBT rights movement, bringing the issue to national awareness.
“I was right and they were wrong and I chose to fight back,” said Kameny in an interview.
It was that same year he co-founded the Mattachine Society of Washington.
Kameny is credited as having brought an “aggressive new tone” to the gay civl rights struggle. His Mattachine Society organized some of the earliest public protests and picket lines. and in 1968, he coined the now oft used phrase “Gay is Good.”
In 1971, he became the first openly gay man to run for a seat in congress. Though he didn’t win, the action alone was a huge step in inspiring generations of LGBT citizens to come.
Kameny dedicated the rest of his life to activism, accumulating many honors and awards for his service on behalf of the LGBT community.
In 2010, it was Kameny who was accorded the place of honor beside President Barack Obama as he signed the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act.”
In Kameny’s last interview, he said of his opponents, “if they get in my way, there will be a fight and I tend to not lose my wars.”
On October 11, 2011, Frank Kameny died at the age of 86 in his home in Washington D.C., where in 2012, a street was named “Frank Kameny Way” in his honor. An asteroid was also named after him to celebrate his career in astronomy, cut short by the injustice he suffered at the time.