Pride patriots

  • Published
  • By Keeley Whetzell
  • Pride Month Committee
Throughout history, there are those whose courage effect positive change for future generations. This week, we recognize the pride patriots who sacrificed and paved the way for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendere equality.

Franklin Kameny, a Harvard masters and doctorate graduate and World War II veteran, is considered a key contributor to the gay rights movement in the United States.

In 1957, he was dismissed from his position as an astronomer in the Army's Map Service because of his homosexuality. Later, in 1958, Kameny was barred from future employment by the federal government. This spearheaded a new period of vigor within the homosexual rights movement of the early 1960s.

In 1963, Kameny, along with protégé Leonard Matlovich, launched a campaign to overturn a Washington D.C. sodomy law. He personally drafted a bill that was finally passed in 1993.

In 1971, he became the first openly gay candidate for the United States Congress. He was appointed as the first openly gay member of the District of Columbia's Human Rights Commission in the 1970s. He served 20 years on the Selective Service board.

Additionally, he worked to remove the classification of homosexuality as a mental disorder from the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which was finally removed in 1973. His efforts resulted in other major mental health organizations following and homosexuality was declassified by the World Health Organization in 1990.

Kameny was seated in the front row when President Barack Obama signed the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010.

After more than half a century as a gay rights pioneer, his last speech to a LGBT group was in Washington DC on Sept. 30, 2011, just days before his death on Oct. 11, 2011.

Uniquely enough, he died on National Coming Out Day, a day that surely would not have been celebrated had it not been for the efforts of Kameny.

Technical Sgt. Leonard P. Matlovich was a Vietnam War veteran, race relations instructor and recipient of the Purple Heart and Bronze Star.

In 1975, Matlovich became the first gay servicemember to purposely out himself to the military in order to fight the ban on gays. Under the guidance of Kameny, he initiated a challenge to the military's ban on homosexuals by writing a letter outing himself to the base commander at Langley Air Force Base, Va.

His pursuit to stay in the Air Force after announcing he was homosexual was unsuccessful. Despite his impeccable military record, he was discharged in October 1975.

However, his fight for equality 38 years ago helped pave the way for servicemen and women to openly serve today.

His case received national news. His photograph appeared on the September 1975 cover of Time magazine, making him a symbol for thousands of gay and lesbian servicemembers.

Notably, he was also the first openly gay person ever to appear on a cover of a U.S. news magazine.