Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender
(LGBT) Pride Month is celebrated each
June to honor the 1969 Stonewall riots in
Manhattan, and to recognize the impact
that LGBT individuals have had on history
locally, nationally, and internationally.
“Injustice, experienced in the flesh,
is the thing out of which change
—Margaret Mead
American cultural anthropologist
Margaret Mead
(Photo courtesy of the
Library of Congress)
Patrons of the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich
Village rioted after police officers attempted
to raid the popular gay bar that had been
frequently raided by police officers trying to
"clean out the deviants." Angry patrons
clashed with police officers in the streets,
leading to a three-day riot.
The Stonewall riots were recognized as the
catalyst for the Gay Liberation movement in the
United States.
Scene of the Stonewall riots 1969
Still, the struggle had begun much earlier.
Every movement for civil rights has its
pioneers, who remain courageous in the
face of daunting threat. They were brave
enough to challenge the legal sanctions
against homosexuality.
Today, we recognize one
unsung hero of the struggle,
Dr. Frank E. Kameny, who
began fighting for gay rights
more than a decade before
the Stonewall riots.
Frank Kameny
(Photo courtesy of Kay Tobin
Kameny didn’t start out wanting to be a gay
activist. In 1940, he entered college to study
physics. Before he completed his studies, he
served in World War II. After the war he
returned to school, and earned a doctorate in
astronomy from Harvard University.
Frank Kameny
(Photo courtesy
of the Kameny Project)
In July 1957, after teaching briefly at
Georgetown University, he obtained a civil
service job as an astronomer with the U.S.
Army Map Service.
It was soon afterward that an investigator
from the Civil Service Commission began
questioning him about reports that he was
a homosexual. That autumn he was fired.
At the time, it was illegal to be gay and work
for the federal government.
As a result of the policy, over 10,000 gay and
lesbian employees were forced out of their
jobs during the 1950s and 1960s.
In January 1958, Kameny was barred from
federal government employment.
Kameny decided to sue. He lost. He
appealed; again he lost. His lawyer deserted
him, but he persevered.
He brought the first civil rights action
regarding sexual orientation to the Supreme
Court of the United States, arguing that the
government's actions toward gays were “an
affront to human dignity.”
In March 1961, the Supreme Court denied his
Failing to prevail with his petition as an
individual, Kameny decided it was time to
organize. He rallied many others who had
suffered similar injustices, and would fight to
achieve the incremental steps needed to
ultimately achieve equality for gays, lesbians,
bisexuals, and transgender Americans.
In 1961, Kameny and his friend Jack
Nichols founded the Mattachine Society
of Washington, D.C. The goals of the
society were, “To unify, to educate, and to
Thus began the battle to stop the
arbitrary firing of federal employees
based on their sexual orientation.
They started publishing a newsletter, The
Gazette, which they mailed not only to their
members, but to politicians and officials
throughout Washington, including J. Edgar
Hoover, director of the FBI.
J. Edgar Hoover at his desk.
The Society maintained a relentless
campaign to: eliminate discrimination
on the basis of sexual orientation from
civil service employment; grant
security clearances; and qualify for
military service.
In 1965, Kameny
staged the first gay
rights protests with
ten others in front of
the White House and
Pentagon, demanding
Gay rights activists picket the
White House on May 29, 1965.
They all wore business attire to
these events. (File photo - UPI)
Kameny realized that the battle for equality
had to be fought on more than one front, and
that the negative images of homosexuals—
which had even permeated the self-identity
of gay and lesbian people themselves—also
had to be challenged.
In 1966, he coined the slogan "Gay is Good."
Frank Kameny
(Photo courtesy of the Kameny Papers)
In 1971, Kameny took on the American
Psychiatric Association (APA), challenging their
theories as unscientific and harmful to the
psychological well-being of millions.
He argued that being gay or lesbian shouldn't
be described as a mental illness. “We’re not the
problem. You’re the problem!’’
In 1973 the APA quit classifying homosexuality
as a mental disorder.
Decisions in the U.S. Federal Courts slowly
began to change.
In 1975, after 18 years of persistent efforts
by dedicated activists, the U.S. Civil Service
Commission reversed its policies excluding
homosexuals from government
Yale Law Professor William Eskridge, an
expert on the history of gay rights,
maintains that Kameny was the original
protester, strategist, and leader of this
major social movement:
“Frank Kameny was the Rosa Parks and the
Martin Luther King and the Thurgood
Marshall of the gay rights movement.”
Kameny’s years of protest were
the impetus for President Clinton
signing Executive Order 12968 in
1995 that allowed gay federal
employees to obtain security
President Bill Clinton
In 1998, Clinton signed Executive
Order 13087, prohibiting
discrimination based on sexual
orientation in the competitive service
of the federal civilian workforce.
President Obama with Kameny, after
the signing.
(Photo courtesy of Richard Perry/The
New York Times)
Kameny stood by
President Obama’s
side in the Oval Office
as he signed Executive
Order 12721 in 2009,
which granted some
benefits to same-sex
partners of federal
Kameny also received a formal apology in
2009 from the U.S. Civil Service
Commission, for the "shameful action" of
being fired solely based on his sexual
"So in a sense, it took 50 years, but I won my
On December 22, 2010, the "Don't Ask,
Don't Tell" (DADT) Repeal Act became law.
It provided for the repeal of DADT to be
effective 60 days after the President, the
Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of
the Joint Chiefs of Staff certified to Congress
that the armed forces were prepared to
implement the repeal.
Certification occurred July 22, 2011, and
the repeal took place September 20, 2011.
President Barack Obama signed the certification
stating the statutory requirements for repeal of
DADT have been met.
Before his death in 2011, Kameny said,
“All I can say is from the long view, 50 years,
we have moved ahead in a way that would have
been absolutely unimaginable back then.”
Dr. Franklin E. Kameny
“Each June, we commemorate the
courageous individuals who have
fought to achieve this promise for
LGBT Americans, and we rededicate
ourselves to the pursuit of equal
rights for all, regardless of sexual
orientation or gender identity."
—President Barack Obama
Prepared by the Defense Equal
Opportunity Management Institute,
Patrick Air Force Base, Florida
June 2013
All photographs are public domain and are from various sources as cited.
The findings in this report are not to be construed as an official DEOMI,
U.S. military services, or the Department of Defense position, unless
designated by other authorized documents.

Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Pride Month 2013