Frank Kameny, a gay federal employee who successfully fought to overturn the government’s ban on homosexuality in its workforce, died yesterday at his home in Washington. He was 86.
Kameny was fired from his job as an Army astronomer in 1957, and subsequently launched a campaign of lawsuits and marches that would eventually go to the Supreme Court and end the government’s persecution of gay employees. Kameny and other activists forced the government in 1975 to strip language about “immoral conduct” and “sexual perversion” — language that was used to bar gays and lesbians from federal employment — from suitability rules. And in 1995, President Clinton signed an executive order that ended the ban on security clearances for gay people.
Federal GLOBE, an organization that advocates for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender federal employee, issued a statement last night that called him, “a hero,” “our inspiration and … our father.” And Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry, who is also gay, said that Kameny was “known for being feisty and combative, but he was also big-hearted.” Berry said:
He helped make it possible for countless of patriotic Americans to hold security clearances and high government positions, including me. [...] He honored me personally by attending my swearing-in, and showed his ability to forgive by accepting my official apology on behalf of the government for the sad and discredited termination of his federal employment by the U.S. Civil Service Commission, the predecessor of the agency I now head. We presented and he accepted OPM’s highest honor, the Theodore Roosevelt Award, given to those who are courageous in defense of our nation’s Merit Principles. I am grateful for his life, his service to his nation in WWII, and his passion and persistence in helping build a more perfect union. He was a great man, and I will sorely miss him.
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