The Washington Blade reports that 52 years after firing Frank Kameny from his civil service job in 1957 for being gay, the federal government officially apologized. John Berry, the gay director of the Office of Personnel Management, presented Kameny with a letter of regret, along with the department’s most prestigious honor, the Theodore Roosevelt Award. The man is highly deserving of the tribute, as he is a true gay pioneer, one of the first to ever openly picket a government office as an open homosexual.
Here’s the full text of the letter:
“Dear Dr. Kameny:
In what we know today was a shameful action, the United States Civil Service Commission in 1957 upheld your dismissal from your job solely on the basis of your sexual orientation. In one letter to you, an agency official wrote that the Government ‘does not hire homosexuals and will not permit their employment...’ He went on to say that ‘the homosexual is automatically a security risk’ and that he ‘frequently becomes a disruptive personnel factor within any organization.’" ==continued below photo==
Photo of "Gay is Good" button, a slogan Frank Kameny created
"With the fervent passion of a true patriot, you did not resign yourself to your fate or quietly endure this wrong. With courage and strength, you fought back. And so today, I am writing to advise you that this policy, which was at odds with the bedrock principles underlying the merit-based civil service, has been repudiated by the United States Government, due in large part to your determination and life’s work, and to the thousands of Americans whose advocacy your words have inspired.
"Thus, the civil service laws, rules and regulations now provide that it is illegal to discriminate against federal employees or applicants based on matters not related to their ability to perform their jobs, including their sexual orientation. Furthermore, I am happy to inform you that the Memorandum signed by President Obama on June 17, 2009 directs the Office of Personnel Management—the successor to the CSC--to issue guidance to all executive departments and agencies regarding their obligations to comply with these laws, rules, and regulations." ==continued below photo==
Frank Kameny at Capital Pride in Washington DC June 2008 photo
"And by virtue of the authority vested in me as Director of the Office Of Personnel Management, it is my duty and great pleasure to inform you that I am adding my support, along with that of many other past Directors, for the repudiation of the reasoning of the 1957 finding by the United States Civil Service Commission to dismiss you from your job solely on the basis of your sexual orientation. Please accept our apology for the consequences of the previous policy of the United States government, and please accept the gratitude and appreciation of the United States Office of Personnel Management for the work you have done to fight discrimination and protect the merit-based civil service system.
John Berry, Director”
The 84 year-old Kameny accepted the apology with a big smile on his face, as the photo at the top of this post attests.
Phil Johnson (left) and Frank Kameny dance together at the American Psychiatric Association Banquet in Dallas, Texas, 1972 photo
If this isn’t proof the Obama Administration is working to improve gay rights, I don’t know what is. Forty years ago I, too, was fired for being openly gay—from States Steamship Company in San Francisco, of all places. I’ll never get an apology, though, as they filed bankruptcy in 1979 for “failing to keep up with the times.” Read more about the ordeal on my website.
Also visit http://www.galechesterwhittington.com/ for free humor, short stories, poems, and book excerpts from the award-winning gay author