Badpuppy Gay Today

Monday, 10 November 1997

FRANK KAMENY ATTENDS CLINTON SPEECH AT HRC FUNCTION

Father of Gay Movement Militancy Basks in Banquet's Afterglow
Says U.S. President's Presence is Evidence of "Astonishing" Gay Successes

By Jack Nichols

 

The supporters of an obsessed cleric, an anti-gay-Baptist from Topeka, Kansas, protested with others on Saturday evening outside the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Inside Ellen DeGeneres and Anne Heche were happily seated among other high energy celebrities in the hotel's huge ballroom. Later, in her speech, Ms. DeGeneres left her "reluctant activist" personae in the dust. After getting an especially warm reception from the HRC audience, the actress wisely took steps to resurrect the often suspect word, "activist", and to claim it as a true plus on her resume.

Also seated at the gala black tie Human Rights Campaign (HRC) affair, were William J. Clinton, the President of the United States and, at another table, Franklin E. Kameny, Ph.D., the father of gay activist militancy, as well as the first president of The Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C. (Founded 1961)

The Mattachine Society of Washington was the unrepentent organization through which Kameny initiated direct action strategies to secure full equality for homosexuals.

Kameny had been the first American to approach the United States Supreme Court with his late 1950s case after he was removed from his position as a security-clearance-holding-Harvard-educated astronomer in U.S. government employ. He'd been suspected, it was said, of having acted upon his homosexual tendencies. Prior to Kameny's case, such suspicions were deemed adequate reasons for federal job dismissals and no gay men or lesbians had previously contested their dismissals in the courts.

In Frank Kameny the prejudiced bureaucracies of the U.S. government were to meet their indefatigable match.

Kameny, now 72, has, for nearly a half-century—initiated ground-zero strategies, taking part in poignant moments during gay movement history. He has lived to see near victory for the historic non-violent battles he's waged against the government's anti-gay policies. The unprecedented occurrence in the Hyatt banquet hall—an address by a sitting U.S. president to a national gay and lesbian organization-- was therefore fraught with deep emotional significance for the gay activist pioneer.

Kameny told GayToday on Sunday "the attendance at a gay function by the President of the United States is, in my view, clear evidence of the astonishing success of the gay movement over the past four-and-a-half-decades."

Seated at the crowded $250 per plate fundraiser, Kameny was jubilant at what he saw as primary signs of progress.

"When I began to be involved in the gay movement," he recalled, "Presidents were chief executives in charge of an executive branch which was THE enemy incarnate for gay people.

"Attendance by the President at any gay function would not have not only been unthinkable but so far removed from reality as to be even un-dreamable.

"Presidents in those days didn't even answer our (movement) letters, nor did any other public officials with the rarest of exceptions."

The current U.S. President has, however, taken bold steps to pick up Kameny's long-ago gauntlets thrown, challenges first made— truly clarion calls-- in the nation's capital.

Kameny says he fully welcomes a sitting president who now offers publicly to "broaden" the nation's "imagination" by including homosexuals fully as American citizens. With such offers on the table, Kameny has good reason to rejoice.

President Clinton, alluding to his own family having been helped many years before by a kindly gay friend, advised America that it helps to know someone who is gay.

Such sentiments, aired on C-SPAN before the nation, buoyed Frank Kameny as he reflected quietly on his lifelong struggles for social justice.

"Therefore, I left the function last night," he explained, "with a greater feeling of satisfaction, fulfillment and joy than can I can easily express."

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