Pioneering gay activist Frank Kameny has died

Frank Kameny, center with 'Gay is Good' sign, was one of the most visible leaders of the early gay rights movement

Frank Kameny in 2009

The Washington Blade has reported that pioneering gay rights activist Franklin E. “Frank” Kameny died today at his home at age 86, apparently of natural causes.

Kameny, born and raised in New York City served in the Army and was a World War II combat veteran. After the war, he earned a doctorate in astronomy from Harvard and went on to work as an astronomer for the U.S. Army map service but was fired in the 1950s when Army officials discovered he was gay. Kameny contested the firing in the courts, eventually becoming the first person to file a gay-related case before the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court upheld lower court rulings against Kameny by refusing to hear the case, but the case was what prompted him to become a lifelong advocate for gay rights.

Kameny and Jack Nichols cofounded the Washington, D.C. chapter of one of the earliest gay rights organizations, the Mattachine Society, in 1961. In 1963, Kameny drafted the first bill to repeal Wasington, D.C.’s sodomy law — which finally happened in 1993 — and on April 17, 1965, Kameny and Nichols led the first public gay protest, a picket outside the White House.

Kameny also led the fight to get homosexuality removed from the American Psychiatric Association’s manual of mental disoders, which happened in 1973 in a vote taken during the association’s convention in Dallas. Kameny danced with Dallas gay rights advocate Phil Johnson at a dinner during that convention.

In 1971, Kameny became the first openly gay congressional candidate when he ran in 1971 in D.C.’s first race to elect a non-voting representative to Congress, and following that race, Kameny and his campaign organization created the Gay and Lesbian Alliance of Washington, D.C., which continues to lobby Congress on LGBT issues. Also in the 1970s, he became the first openly gay person appointed to D.C.’s Human Rights Commission, and he served 20 years on the Selective Service board.

The Library of Congress acquired Kameny’s papers documenting his life in 2006 and in 2007 The Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History included signs and buttons from Kamen’s 1965 protest at the White House in an exhibit called “Treasures of American History.”

In 2009, Kameny’s home in Washington, D.C. was designated as a D./C. Historic Landmark; John Berry, director of the federal government’s Office of Personnel Management apologized to Kameny on behalf of the government and presented him the department’s most prestigious award, the Theodore Roosevelt Award.

In 2010, following a unanimous vote by the Dupont Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commission, a portion of 17th Street was renamed “Frank Kameny Way,” and that same year, Kameny was presented with the Cornelius R. “Neal”Alexander Humanitarian Award.

—  admin

Bigot of the Day: Voddie Baucham

Voddie Baucham

Voddie Baucham is a preacher at Grace Family Baptist Church in Spring, Texas. On Saturday, he addressed the opening session of the 2011 National Religious Broadcasters, an annual gathering of Christian broadcasters that’s taking place in Nashville. According to The Christian Post, Baucham urged them “to not buy into the ‘gay is the new black’ propaganda, but instead to remain committed to defending biblical marriage on the airwaves.” Baucham lamented that some broadcasters have become reluctant to bash gays on the air:

“The reason is the homosexuals have effectively co-opted blackness…to where now, we actually believe gay is the new black and we actually believe homosexual marriage is a civil rights issue,” he explained.

“I’m insulted that people equate not just a sinful behavior but a behavior that’s a special category of sin called abomination with the level of melanin in my skin,” he said.

On a more positive note, the Rev. Cindi Love will appear Tuesday at the National Religious Broadcasters. Love, a former Dallas resident who now serves as executive director of Soulforce, reportedly is the first gay or lesbian leader invited to NRB. According to a press release, Love will participate in a Public Policy Debate on the church’s response to the gay rights movement. The panel will be moderated by socially conservative radio host Janet Parshall, and Love will square off with Joe Dallas, “former homosexual” and “ex-gay rights activist” and co-author of The Complete Christian Guide to Understanding Homosexuality.

“I’m grateful that the NRBC has offered me the opportunity to debate a prominent opponent of LGBT rights before an audience of Christian broadcasters,” Love said. “Christian media has played a major role in spreading and heightening anti-gay sentiment in the U.S. and around the world. The most recent horrific example has been in Uganda, where the use of media as a tool by American evangelicals to spread misinformation and inflammatory rhetoric about LGBT people and support anti-gay legislation has created a climate of hatred, violence and fear for the country’s LGBT population. By participating in this debate, I intend to confront the rhetoric that has cost lives around the world, and attempt to open up an honest dialogue that has been absent for far too long.”

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Pentagon to unveil DADT plan; Ugandan gay activist David Kato laid to rest

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. The Pentagon will roll out its plan today for the training and rules changes needed to implement a repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell.” The training is expected to take three months, meaning full implementation of repeal could come sometime this summer. No word on whether the Pentagon plan includes ending attempts to collect money from people like Army Lt. Dan Choi, who was discharged under DADT and recently received a bill saying he owed $2,500 for unfinished service. Needless to say, Choi told the Pentagon to suck it.

2. Murdered gay rights activist David Kato was laid to rest in Uganda. Sadly, a pastor preaching at the service at one point told homosexuals to repent, before being cut off by mourners and replaced. And unbelievably, Ugandan police say they don’t believe Kato’s status as a gay rights activist had anything to do with his murder. Police say they believe theft was the motive despite witness accounts that someone came into Kato’s house and beat him to death with a hammer before leaving. Above is a report from CNN on Kato’s murder.

3. The Washington Post claims the Republican Party is moving to the left on gay rights. While we don’t dispute this assertion entirely, we’d like to point out that two of their five examples involve Texas GOP lawmakers pandering for votes and money, then promptly remaining as anti-gay ever by voting against the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

—  John Wright

Gay LULAC chapter names Sanchez, Mancha as People of Year, lauds Univision’s LGBT coverage

Jesse Garcia | President, LULAC 4871

LULAC 4871 – The Dallas Rainbow Council will hold its third annual Holiday Party this Friday, Dec. 17, featuring traditional Mexican holiday dishes, Christmas music and awards to recognize outstanding achievement in the LGBT Latino community.

LULAC 4871 will award its “Man of the Year” to gay rights activist Fernie Sanchez. Sanchez was instrumental in getting the word out about the anti-bullying movement in the Dallas Independent School District to Spanish-speaking households. He shared his own personal story of being harassed for being gay and advocated for acceptance during interviews with the local affiliates of Telemundo and Univision. Sanchez also coordinated interviews with other LGBT Latinos to share their bullying stories on a nationwide Univision program. Sanchez was instrumental in holding immigration forums in the LGBT community, assisted with LULAC 4871’s very first National Latino AIDS Awareness Day event and helped promote the Census in both LGBT and Hispanic communities.

“Woman of the Year” will be awarded to Patricia Mancha, a straight ally who has advocated for the LGBT community. Along with Sanchez, Mancha has done outreach with Spanish-language media during the height of the gay suicide epidemic in the fall and also helped dispel myths about HIV during National Latino AIDS Awareness Day. Mancha volunteered to co-sponsor a LULAC youth council and mentors the group every other week.

The “Se Presta Award,” a community award that lauds a non-member of the council who has partnered with LULAC 4871 during the year and made a difference, will recognize long-time community organizer Rosa Lopez. Lopez helps organize West Dallas neighborhoods. She advocates for better streets, public safety and improved schools. Her mostly Hispanic and African-American neighborhood associations consider her a great leader and have no problem with her being a lesbian. She commands the respect that most of us in the LGBT community ultimately want by mainstream America. She is involved her community’s issues and gives a voice to those who have none.

Univision Television and Radio will receive the organization “Se Presta Award” for its in-depth coverage of gay suicide tragedies and the DISD anti-bullying movement.  Univision covered this issue more than their English language counterparts. The local network and radio station have shown that they are community partners with the LGBT community — even asking members of our community to sit on their advisory boards and placing us on their public service announcements. The LGBT community has a friend in Univision.

LULAC 4871’s holiday party caps off a year of success for the five-year-old organization. LULAC 4871’s accomplishments include: renaming a downtown Dallas street after Cesar Chavez, raising $2,600 for AIDS Arms LifeWalk, holding several immigration forums in the LGBT community, partnering with the Dallas Hispanic Bar Association for a legal clinic, partnering with AIDS Arms to test 96 individuals for HIV during National Latino AIDS Awareness Day, registering more than 1,000 people to vote and successfully advocating for a DISD anti-bully code. In July, LULAC 4871 was named “National LULAC Council of the Year” by its national leaders, along with “National LULAC Man of the Year” for LULAC 4871 member and DREAM Act activist Ramiro Luna.

For more information about the Holiday Party, e-mail LULAC4871@aol.com or visit www.lulac4871.org. New members are welcomed.

—  admin

Russian gay activist says he was seized by agents

Nikolai Alexeyev safe in Moscow after he says agents abducted him at the airport last week, demanded that he drop human rights complaints

JIM HEINTZ  |  Associated Press

MOSCOW — A prominent Russian gay rights activist who vanished from a Moscow airport last week said Saturday, Sept. 18 that he was back in the capital after being held for more than two days by men he believes were state security agents.

The disappearance of Nikolai Alexeyev from Domodedovo Airport sparked concern in Western Europe, with the French Foreign Ministry publicly calling on Russia to respect his freedom of movement and a German parliamentarian saying that country’s diplomats were working for his release.

Alexeyev is widely known in the international gay rights movement for his repeated efforts to organize parades in Moscow. The city, whose mayor Yuri Luzhkov has publicly called homosexuals “satanic,” routinely bans the gatherings, most of which are harshly dispersed by police within minutes.

Alexeyev told The Associated Press by telephone on Saturday that he was heading to board a Geneva-bound plane on Wednesday, but was stopped by airport officials after passing through passport and security control and told his baggage needed further inspection. He said he was taken to a small office and that the officials told a Swiss Airlines representative to offload Alexeyev’s checked baggage.

Swiss spokeswoman Andrea Kreuzer said the company was informed Alexeyev hadn’t properly passed security checks. The state news agency ITAR-Tass on Friday quoted a Domodedovo official as saying Alexeyev had been detained after refusing to remove his footwear at the security check.

Thereafter, he said, he was spirited out of the airport by four men who were not in uniform and didn’t identify themselves and was driven to a police station in the city of Kashira, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the airport.

Once there, the men insulted him, using “all the slang words for homosexuals in the dictionary” and demanded he withdraw suits he had filed with the European Court of Human Rights protesting Moscow’s banning of gay rights rallies.

The men also confiscated his cellular telephone, he said.

Russia’s Interfax news agency on Friday reported that it had received text messages from Alexeyev’s phone claiming he was seeking political asylum in Belarus and withdrawing the European court suits. Alexeyev said the texts were sent after his phone was seized.

The next night he was taken to Tula, some 200 kilometers (120 miles) south of Moscow, and by this time “I really thought something bad was going to happen; it was really frightening,” he said.

But the men took him to the outskirts of the city around dawn on Saturday and released him, after which he made his way by bus to Moscow.

Homosexuality was decriminalized in Russia in 1993, but anti-gay feelings remain strong.

Moscow’s bans on gay rallies and Luzhkov’s comments have drawn wide criticism from abroad.

Gay activists have announced plans to rally outside the mayor’s office on Tuesday, Sept. 21 to protest his recent use of the word “fag,” which a court subsequently ruled could not be deemed offensive.

Luzhkov, who has been under increasingly strong pressure to resign in recent months, unexpectedly announced Saturday that he would take vacation next week in Austria and the state news agency RIA Novosti quoted a Kremlin source as saying “he needs time to think.”

—  John Wright

New gay Dallas artifacts: A letter from Log Cabin to Karl Rove, QL’s kissing booth and these pics

Resource Center’s Rafael McDonnell informs us that RCD has made some notable acquisitions of late for its Phil Johnson Historic Archives and Library. For example, McDonnell said activists Blake Wilkinson and Rick Vanderslice recently dropped off some Queer LiberAction memorabilia, including a megaphone and the group’s patented kissing booth. Also, some recovering ex-Log Cabin Republicans provided a copy of a letter they wrote in the 1990s to Karl Rove, then an advisor to Gov. George W. Bush (we’re dying to read this). And finally, McDonnell sent over the below photos he took of photos that came in from William Waybourn, a pioneering Dallas gay-rights activist who now lives outside of Washington, D.C. Unfortunately, many of these items will have to be placed in storage for the time being due to space concerns. But McDonnell says Waybourn’s pics are slated for display at the Center. After the jump, we’ve posted a few a more of them along with Waybourn’s descriptions.

This is a photograph I took of John Thomas in the mid-1990s. He loved it, saying it captured the essence of who he was. Later, when AIDS began to take its toll on him, John wanted it used as his “official” photo because he was concerned that people wouldn’t remember how he looked before AIDS, and not as someone ravaged by the disease. On a side note, I asked John, Bill Nelson, Mike Richards or others appearing in the media on behalf of lesbian and gay issues to look presentable, e.g. wear coats and ties, etc. John and Charlotte Taft, then Dallas’ most “out” lesbian, were always media outstanding role models, skewing people’s impression of what they thought “activists” looked and sounded like.

—  John Wright

A perfect example of the politics of fear: California Sen. Roy Ashburn apologizes for anti-gay votes

Sen. Roy Ashburn

California State Sen. Roy Ashburn isn’t really someone to point to as a role model when it comes to proud gay men. He was deeply closeted most of his life, and spent his time as a senator diligently voting against anything even remotely gay positive, including his vote last November against establishing an annual Harvey Milk Day in honor of the murdered gay rights activist. And in 2005, he not only voted against same-sex marriage in California, he organized an anti-gay-marriage rally.

But then this past March 10, Ashburn’s house of cards came tumbling down: He was stopped as he left a well-known gay bar, with a man in the car with him, and arrested for DWI.

So Ashburn owned up and came out. He admitted, he is gay. But he still defended his anti-gay votes, saying that he was following the wishes of the constituents in his district.

Now, though, the senator — in his final term — has taken yet another step forward: He has apologized for his anti-gay votes in a blog post on GayPolitics.com. He said:

“I am sincerely sorry for the votes I cast and the actions I took that harmed lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Just as important to me, I am sorry for not stepping forward and speaking up as an elected official on behalf of equal treatment for all people.”

And why, you may ask, did he vote against the best interests of himself and his community for so long? He has an answer:

“I chose to conceal who I truly am and to then actually vote against the best interests of people like me. All this was done because I was afraid — terrified, really — that somehow I would be revealed as gay.”

He was afraid. He was afraid because he lived with a secret. He lived, as a transgender friend of mine described it, “stealth.” What better example could anyone ask for of the dangers of living in the closet?

He may have not come out all that willingly, but now that he is out, Roy Ashburn is changing his tune — and his politics. And he is calling on his party — the Republican Party — to change its politics, too:

“We stand for equality as well as opportunity. We stand for individuals living their lives without fear or limits imposed by a powerful government. We stand for a government of limited powers over citizens, including not being involved in the private lives of people. These tenets of Republican ideology call for bold action by our party when confronted with the real-life issues of discrimination against LGBT people.

“I am no longer willing, nor able to remain silent in the face of unequal and hurtful treatment of my community. It may have taken me a strange, incoherent and long path to get here, but this is where I find myself as a gay Republican senator. It’s time for Republicans to find our way and fight for equal treatment for all people, especially the freedom to be unique and have our rights acknowledged and protected.”

OK, so while his life up until this year isn’t role-model material, it looks like Ashburn is moving in that direction. I just wish it wasn’t his last term in the California Senate. And I hope his GOP colleagues will listen to him.

—  admin