Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Frank Kameny archives at Library of Congress create controversy


Dr. Franklin E. Kameny is one of the most famous fighters for gay rights. He was an astronomer working for the government in 1957 when investigators approached him and said, "We have information that you are homosexual. Do you have any comment?" He was fired and lived in poverty for some years, but would found the Mattachine Society in the 1960s, well before Stonewall.

In those days, civilian government employees were discharged more vehemently than were members of the armed forces who (in comparison to the later controvery over the military gay ban and "don't ask don't tell") often feared that recruits would try to use homosexuality to get out of the draft for war. In 1965 or so, Dean Rusk said in the State Deparment, "when we find homosexuals in our ranks, we discharge them." In 1966 the Civil Service Commission would publish reasons why homosexuals were unfit for civil service, but in 1973 would overturn the policy and allow gays in federal employment (how condescending!) "Sexual perversion" had been listed as one of the reasons you could be fired from the government when I had my first job with the National Bureau of Standards (at what is now the University of the District of Columbia campus) in 1963, and I had to explain my own "psychiatric history" with the William and Mary explusion to the medical officer. They let it go.

His papers have been donated to the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress. They are not yet visible to the public. However, Peter LaBarbera of "Americans for Truth" wants a caution sign next to the collection.

The story is Yusef Najafi "Historic Controversy: Anti-gay activist launches campaign against Kameny's acceptance at Library of Congress," Metro Weekly, Nov 30, 2006, at this link.

In 1993, Kameny was a guest on Scott Peck's radio talk show (Mr. Peck was the son of the Marine Colonel who was outed in Sam Nunn's hearings on President Clinton's attempt to lift the ban on gays in the military), and he discussed civilian security clearances for gays, which he said had gotten much easier since about 1990 (the time of the first Persian Gulf War against Saddam Hussein).

Kameny was honored at the HRC National Dinner Oct 7, 2006, and a short film about his life was showm.

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