Task Force mourns the death of pioneering gay activist and founding board member Frank Kameny
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force mourns the death of Frank Kameny, 86, a pioneering and legendary gay activist and founding board member of the Task Force. Kameny — known for coining the phrase “Gay is Good” — received a “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the Task Force in 2006 for his decades of courageous activism on the front lines of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) liberation movement.
Statement by Rea Carey, executive director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force:
The death of Frank Kameny is a profound loss and he will be greatly missed. No Washington LGBT event or White House meeting was complete without Frank. I always appreciated that he gave the 50-plus-year perspective, the long view. While so many have been impatient about the pace of progress, there was Frank, insisting we recognize that, in the last two years, he was regularly invited as a guest of honor by the very government that fired him simply for being gay. Yet, he never slowed down in demanding what should be, showing us what was possible and pushing for the very equality and liberation we are still fighting for. As the history books are written on the LGBT movement, no doubt Frank’s life will serve as an inspiration to those who will never have the honor of meeting him, but who embody the very future he knew would come true one day. Indeed, Frank, Gay is Good.
Frank Kameny’s life spanned the baddest old days of the McCarthy-style witch hunts to the elations of winning marriage equality in the District of Columbia and beyond. In 1957, Frank lost his job, but he never lost his fierce fighting spirit, his blunt and witty command of language, or his commitment to eradicating homophobia. Frank was equally confident and strategic on the streets in front of the White House in 1965 as he was attending a White House meeting in 1977 at which he and a dozen other members of our community briefed then-Public Liaison Midge Costanza on much-needed changes in federal laws and policies. As the LGBT movement began to win in legislatures, courtrooms, and in public opinion, Frank’s papers, artifacts and memories gained value. Frank Kameny wasn’t only a keeper of our history, Frank created our history. His life and legacy carry us into our future.
Task Force Deputy Executive Director Darlene Nipper remembers a recent experience with Frank:
Frank Kameny and I sat next to each other at the historic Obama signing of the DADT repeal bill. I can still feel the pressure of his slight build as we locked arms and then squeezed each other tightly in a hug to celebrate that joyous moment. What a gift it was for me to look into his eyes as we both teared up and say, “Thank you, Frank. For all you’ve endured and all you’ve done to make this day possible, thank you!”