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Frank Kameny:
A 20th Century Legend
GayToday's End of the Century Interview

Interview by Bob Kunst

It was Veterans Day, 1999 and Florida's veteran gay activist, Bob Kunst, had been watching military ceremonies on television. Speaking that evening to me, he expressed his unhappiness about the state of the movement's 'Gays in the Military' struggle. He talked particularly about World War II veterans who, he said, had not received due recognition for their services. kamenynew.jpg - 5.78 K Frank Kameny

I reminded him that our movement's legendary Father of Militant Activism, Dr. Franklin E. Kameny, the first gay strategist who started in 1961 to repeatedly challenge 'Gays in the Military' abuses, had also—earlier—been a U.S. soldier during World War II—fighting against Hitler on the front lines.

"Kameny still cares immensely about these issues," I said, "and I'm willing to bet he'd welcome an 'End of the Century' interview about them. Bob Kunst then called the 74-year old pioneer, who readily agreed to such an interview and the following discussion between the two direct-action militants-- who'd never before met or talked-- took place.

Jack Nichols, Senior Editor

Bob Kunst: What did you do in the War, Daddy? WWII, that is.

Frank Kameny: May of '43 turned 18 and September 20, '43 did active training, went to England, and on New Year's landed in Europe and did combat in Holland and Rheinland, Rhuur.

Bob Kunst: Did you go into any of the 'death camps'?

Frank Kameny: No, but I did see many survivors. Everything we threw out they ate.

kunst.jpg - 16.58 K Veteran Florida activist Bob Kunst Bob Kunst: Were you openly gay then?

Frank Kameny: No, one or two incidents. But I didn't come out till long after that.

Bob Kunst: Did you ever experience homophobia in the military?

Frank Kameny: Not to me particularly. Attitudes were generally negative. Was asked once in a question and said 'no', and that was that.

Bob Kunst: You did experience combat and did kill the enemy?

Frank Kameny: Yes, I was in a mortar crew, and could be called a small scale artillery unit, but not face to face, but did fire and used carbines. I assume I did, but not directly.

Bob Kunst: Did you receive any military commendations?

Frank Kameny: I do have a 'combat infantry' badge which I still wear at the wreath laying ceremonies.

Bob Kunst: What circumstances caused you to lock horns with the Pentagon?

Frank Kameny: Confronting them on military issues-- this came later on with Mattachine in D.C. in '61, and (there was) no competition (from other challengers), and nothing much going on and we wrote our own agenda, and were the cutting edge of doing anything in the country, and doing 'Government vs. Gays'- civil service employment, security clearance and the armed services.

Some of our picketing was done at the Pentagon in 1965.

Since during Draft I handled a number of cases of those who wanted to get out of the draft or were in the service and were being attacked and needing to be defended.

Bob Kunst: Any landmark cases?

Frank Kameny: Not any I was involved in with the military. But a number of cases that I was collaterally involved with.

Bob Kunst: Involved with the Vietnam War?

Frank Kameny: No, solely on gays in the military and military policies with gays.

Bob Kunst: Did you get media attention?

Frank Kameny: Oh, yes, the first demonstration was in front of the White House with no notification to anyone, 4/13/65, and that went so well, and then in future ones we created publicity.

Bob Kunst: Was the publicity favorable?

Frank Kameny: More noting the event, and reporting fact. One in front of the State Dept. on August 20, 1965, and there Secretary of State Rusk had a news conference the night before having to do with Vietnam matters, and in the course of the news conference, and a reporter asked him about these gay demonstrations and Rusk did make reference to it.

One scandal magazine of the day had a picture of us picketing and stating that of course these aren't real homosexuals, these are all actors, hired actors, playing the part.

Bob Kunst: Oh, so you were accused of being hired actors and not homosexuals?

Previous Interviews from the GayToday Archive:
Frank Kameny: 'Sodomy Solicitations Are Needed!'

Voice of America Broadcasts Gay Cause to China

Frank Kameny Attends Clinton Speech at HRC Dinner

Sexual Recruiting and the Ex-Gay Movement

Kameny Blasts Defense Department Falsehoods

Related Sites:
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network
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Frank Kameny: To some people it was inconceivable that actual, real gay people would do such things publicly.

Bob Kunst: Wow! That is very interesting. Did you see this as a valid strategy that demonstrations and media were legitimate tools in movement?

Frank Kameny: Yes, we needed to make our case. In advance of demos we sent out news releases and set out our case, why are homosexuals doing this.

Our demonstrations were very tightly structured and controlled and our signs were approved in advance, so immediately post-demonstration, we released a post-demonstration news release on what happened, how many people were there, what each sign said, and I still have most of those signs up in my attic.

Bob Kunst: Interesting…How many attended your demonstrations at the Pentagon

Frank Kameny: Small, generally 20, 25.

Bob Kunst: How many at the Pentagon?

Frank Kameny: One demonstration. But the following year on Armed Services Day, in May, not Memorial Day, coordinated demonstrations in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, New York and we had one in Washington. We started at the White House and needed a special permit to march across the Mall and across the bridge and then picket at the Pentagon. It was a major undertaking.

Bob Kunst: It sounds quite incredible. I'm amazed this hasn't happened in the present argument about gays in the military, but something that should be done. How would you approach this strategy today?

Frank Kameny: Nowadays, of course, (there's) no more draft, the whole legal landscape has changed and with Congressional policies changing in 1993, 1994 and the whole 'don't ask, don't tell' policies of the administration.

Bob Kunst: How do you feel about that?

kamenythink.jpg - 6.31 K Frank Kameny: My feeling is, at this point of, of it becoming more legalistic than it was back then. We supported quite a few cases in the '70s that went to Court of Appeals even in those days, but currently cases that come forward, is the May case in Arizona, and others gone to the court and not successfully, of course in those days (past) there was no gay legal establishment.

You had to get sympathetic lawyers from the ACLU, but nowadays, we have a gay legal establishment, and I took them very harshly to task, in he early '90s because you had this old dichotomy between status and conduct, and I was quoted in Newsweek magazine one time, as this person's status is gay but there is no evidence he's engaged in any homosexual conduct, and I haven't worked for 40 years for rights simply and solely for celibate gays.

And that the exact same rules should apply for homosexual sexual acts as for heterosexual ones. And this has to be addressed head on or we are going to be backed into a corner which we will get a decision for celibate gays which won't do anyone any good at all and for nobody else.

Bob Kunst: And so the issue, is the battle to support celibate gays?

Frank Kameny: That was the previous approach and has since changed.

Bob Kunst: But how do you feel about the issue of 'Don't ask, Don't tell'? Do you see it as a betrayal?

Frank Kameny: It depends on what you mean 'how do I feel'? The policy itself it simply unacceptable, and it has to be fought so that homosexuality in the service is on a par with heterosexuality and gay people with heterosexual people in the service.

As far as the existence of the policy, and a lot of our people take Clinton to task and he should be, but his intentions were honorable, and he got sideswiped by a viciously hostile Congress, and at that point, was inexperienced and I suspect if this were happening now, after 8 years in the White House he would handle things in a far more sophisticated way.

But if they choose to, instead of leaving it to executive order, as they originally intended, to try to soften what Congress has done.

Bob Kunst: In 8 you think that he has done anything since on this?

Frank Kameny: I don't know what he can do. The military has not given nearly proper attention to the valid, factual claims of abuses that have been coming forward like (through) the (Servicepersons Legal Defense Network) SLDN. And have tried to negate those and excuse those, so that things have gone on the way they shouldn't for much too long.

Bob Kunst: I would like to suggest, and part f the problem is our own movement which has settled on today's problem within the military, they've neglected the fact that gays have always served and given life and limb, and if it was for our participation and finance and our whole history of existence which is being denied, the fact is we helped to stop the Nazis. And the fact is, we are facing the New Nazis that ignore of very existence, past and history.

Frank Kameny: What should have happened is that evil action, get taken by evil people who have hate. In other words, when you read objections` for what is going on and so on, the Defense Dept. did this, the Department of the Army did that, Commander of such and such on base did the other.

All of the people doing things have names on every possible level. And my basic position is, the record is very, very clear, that gays served as a minimum as well as heterosexuals, and some evidence suggests we may have served better.

A lot of individuals persecuted under these policies, having given superior performances, to eliminate them from the Armed Services is to lower the quality of the Armed Services, is to give aid and comfort to the enemies of our country.

To give aid and comfort to the enemies of our country is the definition of treason, Article 3, Section 3 of the (U.S.) Constitution.

Therefore, every person involved, on every level, Commander Smith, Jones, whatever, who are involved with individual board members who decide these things, every single one of those people with a name, is guilty of treason, and should be indicted, prosecuted, tried, convicted, and hanged for treason and I would personally contribute to the cost of the hangman's rope out of my own pocket.

And every single time one of these cases comes along, all of those people, Colonel, Major, go out on Internet as Traitor Jones, and Traitor Smith, and should be lambasted and dragged through the mud from one end of the country to the other by name.

Bob Kunst: I couldn't agree with you more. We could start with Colon Powell, Trent Lott and the whole nine yards. Every single one of them.

Frank Kameny: Any one part of this policy should be repetitively designated 'traitor'…I even wrote a letter to Traitor Sam Nunn.

Bob Kunst: I did too. My concern here is that this was never the passion, your are expressing here, and which I feel deeply about, was never expressed by our movement leaders.

Frank Kameny: I'm aware of that.

Bob Kunst: So I feel they have misread, what is the basic bottom line issue, that holds back the entire process of the gay rights struggle. That by not dealing with this issue in terms of our sacrifice, both in life and limb and financial, and our history relating to this whole process, that we have in effect, allowed the 'movement' to trivialize and negate, to ignore our victories, and therefore there is this lack of agenda, in terms of direction for the movement, those who claim to be in charge have negated the importance of this issue, which to me is getting to the root of the entire problem.

kameny4.gif - 13.95 K Frank Kameny: Yes. Incidentally, we picketed Andrews Air Force Base, he was due to be dismissed from the service two days after 'Gay Pride' and as a marshal for the parade he was interviewed by the Washington Post, mentioned his name and getting ready to be discharged, and immediately the Air Force put a hold on his discharge, started to investigate him, and went offer with him to his investigator, and they tried to suck me out of being there, but I put my foot in the door and dared them to put me out, and we almost got into a fist fight.

The investigator was very disdainful that they were going to hear about it. I phoned the (Washington) Post and there was an article on the front page, and the next day this issue was taken up on the floor of the House, and he was out of the military a day or so later with an honorable discharge.

Bob Kunst: Let's go back to this question: How do you rate 'gays in the military' among our priorities for gay rights?

Frank Kameny: Let me respond first, a little bit subjectively. Gays in the military represents the sole, unresolved issue. We've cleared up civil services, security clearances, non-government issues, we've cleared up from the psychiatrists, here in Washington a repeal of sodomy laws, this represents the one bit of unfinished business that goes all the way back to there.

On that basis alone, I consider this that important. For the present, we've got several small issues at the top of the agenda: Gays in the military, same-sex marriage, ENDA, Hate Crimes, I have a feeling I'm leaving one out.

Bob Kunst: AIDS?

Frank Kameny: I put that in a whole other different category. Others are involved and doing as well as can be expected, and by conscious decision I've stayed out of AIDS.

Bob Kunst: If we have an issue where gays are expendable and our history on serving and funding and saving this country from the Nazis, as part of the total package here, it seems we've been treated as expendable, treated as non-existent, treated as not worth supporting or giving equality to, yet still asking us to pick up the tab for it.

So I see the military issue as a key player in all these other issues. In other words, in getting to treat with respect our sacrifice, and understand our history, and what it took from an activist level to deal with all of this, then we'd be able to nurture these roots to get to the next level.

This is what we had to go through and we have to reconnect with this phenomenon in order to get to the next step. I think we are stuck. I feel the movement is stuck.

We're fighting two forces: the homophobes outside of the community, The Pentagon, The Falwells, Congress and everybody afraid to make the step, and then we're fighting the internal homophobia, in a movement not doing what has to be addressed here.

To put gay marriage at the top of the list, to me, to allow a violent, fearful, homophobic society to endorse our love-making is to me, totally insane.

At the same time trying to deny we are sexual people, in any position we are, in in serving our country and yet not being allowed to serve our country, yet be asked to pick up the tab. So to me, gay marriage is not the priority.

Frank Kameny: And certainly not for me personally.

Bob Kunst: I feel like we've been hijacked.

Frank Kameny: The reason it has gone to the top of the list, and I feel that it is important, is because, you've got to live in a real world, the opposition has chosen to react so incredibly intensely on that issue. Irrationally, yet real. Reaction is intense beyond belief.

Bob Kunst: Yes, but people who use the 'treason' word, the people who betray this nation, the people who play treasonously and aid and abet the enemy are themselves the ones who cannot judge our issue of love-making.

So to go back to the issue of treason as the foundation of our movement, the other issues fall into place. In other words, we don't have to defend ourselves on any scale except to say that 'you are the enemy' and 'you have betrayed us and this nation and everything we stand for.'

'You have played the role of the Nazi', and 'you're willing now to take it to its next level' and so the issue of judging our love-making is totally immaterial, and you can't even get to first base of supporting what this country is all about, and the Constitution.

Frank Kameny: But ultimately these issues sort themselves out.

Bob Kunst: Yes, but we were in those trenches.

Frank Kameny: Yes, but unless you're doing an essay, you can't paint with too broad a brush. If you're dealing with marriage, you're dealing with marriage. If you're dealing with gays in the military, you're dealing with gays in the military. With job discrimination, with job discrimination.

Bob Kunst: I agree. But why are we fighting to save this country that isn't fighting to save us?

Frank Kameny: I basic principles which the country is founded is good, imperfect in some ways, but I am willing to work to make it less imperfect, which is what I have been doing for the last 40 years. The imperfections from our viewpoint are far fewer than were and we fight to remedy the residual imperfections.

Bob Kunst: My concern, is that I don't want to see the gay marriage issue take the priority level of debate, but rather 'who is committing treason' on all levels.

Frank Kameny: My feeling is that they interact. If we succeed on the gay marriage issue, it will help the other issues. We need to focus on each issue by issue.

Bob Kunst: But is gays in the military the primary issue and gay marriage a secondary issue? I don't see a rush for everyone to get married. I think we've been hijacked by a handful of people.

Frank Kameny: Those who've chosen to avail themselves of it, are relatively small, but the reaction to this very notion is so intense, that until resolved, will have a large and favorable impact.

gaymarriage.jpg - 16.92 K Bob Kunst: No question that the government cannot prove why gay marriage shouldn't take place ("No compelling reason"; government couldn't prove it in the courts in Hawaii, or in any other state, so down the road that will take place, for those that want to do this. The quality of relationships is starting to move faster than the gay marriage issue, domestic partnership issues with Fortune 500 and many communities are already moving on these concerns.

Frank Kameny: 'Domestic partners' issue is fine but it is a 'back of the bus' solution. The 'back of the bus' is the times of segregation got folks there the same time as the front of the bus did, never-the-less, there was an incredibly powerful symbolism involved, strictly offensive, and you can get all the domestic partnership issues from every corporation but it isn't the same, simply because of the opposition, where marriage puts us in an inherently inferior position.

Bob Kunst: Maybe we're in a superior position by not being in that position.

Frank Kameny: You can rationalize it all you want, whatever you personal view on marriage, but in the end, given the status that it holds in the culture, a cultural matter, marriage is the only way of getting cultural equality. We have a friendly difference of opinion here.

Bob Kunst: Do you feel that the gays in the military issue has been abused by the movement, ignored? Trivialized?

Frank Kameny: Aside effort here in 1993, which I was apart of to counter the Nunn committee and all of that, the movement has not taken on this issue to the extent it could. SLDN has in general done a good job. I know the people over there and they have my respect. But, in general, other issues have come along, and the movement hasn't taken it up perhaps in the way it should have.

Bob Kunst: I would agree and would suggest that the history of our relationships as a community to saving this nation has indeed been ignored by our so-called leaders. There are only a few of us out there doing it. Let me ask you about gay veterans. Is there such an energy? And where is their presence in all of this?

Frank Kameny: There is a gay veterans organization, I'm a member, out in California headquarters--and chapters elsewhere. They have a number of public events and have been accepted as part of the American Legion. They've participated in Veteran's parades now-a days, not in the past.

Bob Kunst: I'm wondering why we don't see more of this energy, going back to the discussion, that by nurturing the roots the blossoms will grow. In other words if we get to what their sacrifice was, what their experience was, what they went through, and then to be subjected to so much hostility, homophobia, discrimination....

Frank Kameny: I think for most veterans, involved with intense combat and leave psychologically traumatized a sizable part of their lives, once they are out of the service, that all gets put behind them and they sort of go on with life.

Their military episode, was once upon a time, but isn't there anymore. Obviously each veteran is different. 'It was different from anything else, but now I'm moving on with my career, and that's that'. It describes most vets, gay or non-gay.

Bob Kunst: There seems to be a major disconnect with the Veterans and the rest of the population even when Veteran's Day comes by. They seem to feel that everyone forgot what their sacrifice was all about, what the whole crisis was all about, and taken all for granted.

This disconnect, is also with the Veteran's groups on (the) 'Don't ask, Don't tell' issue. They weren't there to defend their own gay, bisexual and heterosexual brothers and sisters who have been abused and offended, and went along with the silence. Simultaneously, perhaps this requires a resurrected energy within our own community, for example, like Holocaust survivors.

Frank Kameny: For a practical matter, unless an egregious matter comes out, this should be so, but I just don't see it happening practically. Being cynically realistic.

Bob Kunst: Maybe this is a strategy that needs to be looked at. Put a call out to everybody, those who were perhaps afraid to be up-front and public in those days, who would feel more comfortable these days, and be reinforced by the strength in numbers, to say 'I'm offended to be treated as second-class, asked to pick up the tab, and my history is being denied and here is the truth as to what really happened.

In other words to reconnect with your own past experiences, marching from the White House to the Pentagon, with a new vision of where we have come from, at the same time, this is our experience, ignored, denied and revised.

Frank Kameny: I simply don't see it happening.

Bob Kunst: Well, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Frank Kameny: It would be nice if it did happen, I just don't see a mass response of any size, unless something egregious happens.

Bob Kunst: Maybe this should be a part of the March in Washington in April.

Frank Kameny: That certainly could be structured in, HRC, MCC, who are in charge should certainly be contacted, and fairly promptly. I know nothing at all as to how they are structuring this.

Bob Kunst: I don't think anybody does. Again, I don't think they have the 'agenda'. The thing is that this is an opportunity for an event that is being created to create another level of the event through this process we are talking about, a meaningful statement from this particular angle.

That revises the whole issue, as part of the whole agenda for Congress, whether it be ENDA, Hate Crimes, or helping to defeat the Right Wing Party since there is only a 34 vote difference in the House that would pass all of this stuff. This is another strategy.

beverlyhills1129.jpg - 21.28 K Pre-Stonewall gay pioneers gathered in Beverly Hills at the memorial for activist Jim Kepner. Frank Kameny is second row center.

Frank Kameny: Yeah. There again you get into a political...I'm not trying to be negative in all of this, if it sounds like I'm coming across this way, but simply as a practical thing...well, in Congress now, we're not going to get anything.

Bob Kunst: Well except for the fact that this is....

Frank Kameny: Except for the fact that after the election next year, we can take a look at what kind of Congress we have.

Bob Kunst: Well, why not use this as a vehicle to throw the bums out is my point. If these people are 'treasonous', and this is how they behave towards America's children of all ages...

Frank Kameny: Most districts, Congressional districts, we can rant and rave all we want, but we aren't going to throw anybody out.

Bob Kunst: I disagree.

Frank Kameny: In most cases, some perhaps...

Bob Kunst: I don't see this as a 'liberal vs. conservative' issue but one of 'morality', and defining what this country is all about.

Frank Kameny: I agree with you in all of that, but when it comes down to the voting booth, I don't think we're going to prevail. For most instances and for most districts.

Bob Kunst: I disagree. It's a strategy that has to be presented. My experience in any number of elections we've developed here including the most recent in Volusia County in Daytona Beach where Oral Majority went up there in February for an 'anti-impeachment' rally of 500 people, put out our 'Impeach the GOP' statements in stickers and buttons.

And this last November 14 Democrats won and only one GOPer. Two Republicans were thrown out by Independents. This is a state that went Republican with Jeb Bush for the first time since reconstruction. So there is already an anger there....

Frank Kameny: Were these local county elections?

Bob Kunst: This was a local county election, on the other hand, on a statewide level, on the same day that Jeb Bush won, we won a statewide "Declaration of Rights" Constitutional Amendment, the opposition said would legalize gay marriages and adoption of children.

We got 70% of the vote. We got more votes than Jeb Bush. And we got 2 1/2 million votes. Nobody was listening anymore to the garbage. The public is much more attuned to a clear presentation of what the issues are and I think that calling the opposition 'treasonous people', and 'aiding and abetting the enemy' relates to how they treat everyone on every other level of crisis in this country, and could be the core issue if being presented properly. That is our feelings in terms of Oral Majority.

Frank Kameny: And certainly the Internet is a powerful tool to do this.

Bob Kunst: And has tremendous ramifications. In the State of Washington, they tried to repeal gay rights and lost in this last election.

Frank Kameny: Attitudes are changing.

Bob Kunst: Very much so, and outside of Va. which went Republican, almost all the other victories went Democrat, in Republican strongholds like the mayors in Columbus, Indianapolis, Philadelphia, where the GOP will meet next year. Even Giuliani lost by 70% in one of his pet ballot issues. There are a lot of signs out there that we aren't hearing about.

Frank Kameny: Well the Philadelphia election went to a homophobe.

Bob Kunst: Well that may be true and we have to hit the people regardless from which community they come from in terms of their homophobia, sexism, and treasonous behavior. I have no problem with that at all in going after the Democrats who are full of it, anymore than the Republicans.

Let me get back to the issue of the 'unknown soldier' being straight. You may remember that in 1979, Alan Rockway, Melonie Moorehead and myself tried to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and were thrown out...

Frank Kameny: You know the subsequent story from end, don't you?

Bob Kunst: No!

Frank Kameny: You don't?

Bob Kunst: No!

Frank Kameny: I read about that (incident you sparked), and I was so indignant and outraged, and moving into Memorial Day, 1980 and acting through GLAA, I applied for permission to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown for Memorial Day. At that time I wrote a letter to the White House and said if this is not granted, I will get a wreath of my own and lay it down there if the Sentry shoots me in the end.

At that time the Carter people were seeking Gay support, and we had some very high White house people attend a meeting of GLAA, and they had seen the letter and said that this was some very strong language.

I said strong or not, that is exactly what is going to happen, and you 'damn well better do something'. So, ultimately, we got the ACLU, when we hauled the Department of the Army into court on that.

Bob Kunst: Wow!

Frank Kameny: They initially turned us down, and we raised a row. We had Sarah Richter, who was a general counsel for the Dept. of the Army. Her husband, had handled for the ACLU, he was also a lawyer, had handled a lot of gay cases in past years. We had to make a cosmetic change to include all servicemen, as well as gay servicemen.

Bob Kunst: Wonderful...

Frank Kameny: Let me finish. The story goes on a little bit more. At that time the regulations which we got- permitted what we call an 'audible prayer'. So we called a local chapter of MCC, and would you compose a prayer for us to deliver at our ceremony.

And then I took it to the people at Ft. McNair, who handled the ceremony. We are planning to invoke this particular part of your regulations, and we want to do it correctly. Please give us all the guidelines, so that we do things according to regulations.

And they went hysterical. They were absolutely sure we were going to use that prayer to make a political statement, which was to them anathema and we had no intention of doing.

So on the day of the wreath-laying, they sent over three top, top, top level civilian Pentagon officials to examine this prayer word for word and wanted a written copy before they would authorize it. And so they huddled in a corner for close to a half-hour, and offended Larry Urigh, the Minister who complained that since when did the government have the right to censor a prayer, and he was absolutely harassed.

But ultimately okayed it and we went through with it and over the course of several months nobody had ever invoked the option before, we were the first ones and also the last ones. They abolished it.

Bob Kunst: That's great!

Frank Kameny: Meanwhile the election of that November, in order to test the waters of that Veteran's Day, so we had another ceremony for which we applied, in November of 1980. There were all sorts of little things, we learned we weren't registered in the log book.

The wreath came out with a ribbon that said 'Gay and lesbian Alliance' on it, but the wreath was moved around so that the word 'gay' was covered over. All wreaths stay up and announced till the next wreath 15 minutes later.

Ours wasn't announced and by the time we got to the top of the stairs, our wreath was gone. So we protested at great length to the deputy secretary of Army or Defense, a woman, and demanded we be treated with precise parity as with everyone else.

And we got back a good letter from him and from that time on, every Memorial Day, we do a wreath memorial ceremony, led by me, which has been going on for 19 years.

Bob Kunst: Oh Bravo! How wonderful! Wow!

Frank Kemeny: We always send in the application in January so they can't accuse us of being late or that the slots are taken. When they first did that, I sent in a letter saying that we reserve this slot for the next ten years on Memorial Day to the year 2010, and around 2008, my successor, will talk to your successor, Major Gropple, whom we've dealt with these 20 years.

Bob Kunst: Wow!

Frank Kameny: My successor will contact your successor in 2008 to continue this extension to 2020.

Bob Kunst: I like it!

Frank Kameny: So all of this and photos in the (Washington) Blade steadily since 1980.

Bob Kunst: That's marvelous. We started the protest in 1979 and you carried it through since then.

Frank Kameny: I was truly outraged by what happened to you.

Bob Kunst: Let me make a suggestion. The equality effort they have set in tone with our activism and your consistency for 19 years with this, it seems a total break from their policy of 'don't ask, don't tell'.

In other words they are giving us the respect and the recognition at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, for Memorial Day, and then do the complete opposite in terms of their betrayal of the history with 'don't ask, don't tell', let alone today's crisis.

Frank Kameny: Of course, even those who been against us, when pushed do say that Gays served and served honorably. And then you get into these idiocies of 'unit cohesion' and other silly nonsense.

Bob Kunst: Yes, that's their macho crap on who is a man and who isn't a man, and all that nonsense. Right!

Frank Kameny: Both Gore and Bradley have a reasonable sympathy on this policy and none of the Republicans have.

Bob Kunst: . Right.

Frank Kameny: And if either one of them gets in, this would be an opportune time to move on these issues immediately. I only disagree with you on the timing of now and after the election, unless once again, a horrendous case arises. McCain doesn't believe in discrimination but does believe in 'don't ask, don't tell'.

Bob Kunst: But what a phony, how did he ever survive the prison camps if it wasn't for the affection of his fellow prisoners.

Frank Kameny: Of course.

Bob Kunst: So this hypocrite has to be put on the line, and so does Bush, playing out his little game of not meeting with gays.

Frank Kameny: His statements last Sunday caused a great deal of dismay.

Bob Kunst: Yes, but the Gay Republicans are another problem, I can't understand why they are Republican to begin with.

Frank Kameny: McCain is a mixed bag. He sent a high level person to speak to a local chapter of Log Cabin. Probably in September I went to that meeting and heard them talk of McCain's support for nomination of Hormel.

But when question and answer (period arrived), I asked about ENDA, Hate Crimes, Gay Marriages and Gays in Military and got a negative answer on all four.

I was sorry to hear that as a Democrat in a Log Cabin meeting. But in fairness to him, it's not impossible for him to change his attitude.

Bob Kunst: I think the question is to push this issue across the board, not after the campaign, but before, during and as part of how we go into the new century, play the same old games or finally get off our behinds and do something else.

Frank Kameny: It should certainly be pushed for the election campaign, but as a practical thing I don't see any change in policy occurring. It should be brought up wherever and whenever possible.

Bob Kunst: We're on the same wave length. I want to move away from the 'quick fix' approach, that is almost America's psyche. Like the new trick everyday approach. Or they have to have something new that doesn't get them bored.

Like the next crises, the next murder, the next horror. It's the 'quick fix' insanity and how the whole system functions or doesn't function. I thought the other day that NBC didn't cover JFK's Assassination Anniversary on national news but gave George W. Bush the lead story a day earlier, and Miami Herald's lead was that Bush wouldn't meet with Gays. The system just doesn't ignore us, but ignores everyone.

Frank Kameny: Yes, but it was 40 years ago.

Bob Kunst: Yes, and the Holocaust was over 50 years ago.

Frank Kameny: And that too will fade, I'm willing to predict.

Bob Kunst: But only if we allow it too.

Frank Kameny: In 25 years it will be a problem to keep the Holocaust Museum alive in Washington, D.C. History becomes history and disappears.

Bob Kunst: My concern here is our moral responsibility to keep the issues alive, whatever matters and not trivialize what happened which is how the public will perceive it.

Frank Kameny: JFK was here and isn't and gays are here to stay.

Bob Kunst: I'm talking about hysterical revisionism here which reminds me of the Battle of Thermopoly, which goes back to ancient Greece, and where the Greeks urged lovers to defend each other because they would fight harder to keep each other alive. 300 lovers fought off a huge army to keep each other alive. While our army sees this as a negative, the Greeks saw it as a positive. Things like this need to be brought out an countered.

Bottom line, it hit me so hard this Veteran's Day, 1000 dying every day who were in WWII. A terrible disconnect with their experience and today's attitudes and I work closely with holocaust survivors, those are my mentors and my role models.

I deal with the older generation, and I enjoy working with them, and so I feel that we're running out of time in making the connections.

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Gay historian James Sears with Kameny
and GayToday Senior Editor Jack Nichols

Bob Kunst: Where the people can make the statement based on their personal experiences, I want to encourage it, because I feel it is the missing link. I presented this to Jack (Nichols) to be the (GayToday) feature for December and I think we've done it. This has been a great interview.

Frank Kameny: I'm glad you feel that way.

Bob Kunst: My only concern is that I hope we can continue.

Frank Kameny: Well certainly the channels of communications are wide open.

Bob Kunst: Let's consider this a first step. We'll communicate what comes out of the article, how we feel about it, and other ideas and perhaps and reactions to the article and let's see how people are feeling about this.

I know I got a lot of support for opposing Mel White and Jerry Falwell, and I've gotten a lot of e-mail and Jack has also gotten a lot of responses (at GayToday) and I think we've opened a whole corner in that direction too. So I feel pretty empowered now.

So let me say thank you very much and I'm really excited to have this communication with you, I guess we've not really done for these many years.

Frank Kameny: No we've never really talked before.

Bob Kunst: That's right, and I'm hoping this can be the start of taking your expertise, my expertise and bringing other people on board like Jack (Nichols) and anybody else who can also understand where we are at this moment.

Frank Kameny: OK!

Bob Kunst: And see if we can get some of this energy cooking on a really huge scale. I think we're a missing link.

Frank Kameny: Alright!

Bob Kunst: And that's how I want to pursue it. A wonderful Thanksgiving and thank you very much.

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