Franklin E. Kameny’s May 22nd Speech
a Celebration of Jim Kepner’s Life &
Past 50 Years of the Gay & Lesbian Rights Movement
at the Samuel Goldwyn Theatre of the
of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences
Kepner's photograph in the lobby
While it is hardly my wont
to resort to anything religious under any circumstances, it is not inappropriate
to do so just this once. In the New Testament, one of the reasons given
for setting out the history narrated there was the passing from the scene
of the first-hand witnesses to the events which had occurred.
That is singularly relevant
to this truly remarkable gathering of the slowly dwindling numbers of those
of us who remain from the creation of one of the most uniquely successful
efforts at profound social change which has ever occurred—at least in recent
And successful it has been!
Beyond the wildest dreams of those of us who were there three, four and
five decades ago—and more. Not only beyond our wildest dreams, but beyond
even the ability to dream those dreams back then. We started with
nothing, and look what we have wrought.!
Who would have imagined upwards
of a million gay people marching in Washington and filling the Mall? Who
would have imagined not merely the fading of anti-gay discrimination, but
laws affirmatively prohibiting such discrimination? Who would have
imagined personal appearances by the President and the Vice-President of
the United States at major gay events, and congratulatory statements by
the President supportive of gay pride festivals? In fact, who then
would have imagined gay pride, much less public celebrations of it?
In an era when the government was our enemy and was out to get us, who
would have imagined organizations of gay federal employees supported by
government agencies, departments and departmental Secretaries—even the
FBI? And who would have imagined that THE front-burner social issue
of the day, taken seriously by friend and foe alike, would be same-sex
Franklin E. Kameny (center) with historian James T.
(left) and Badpuppy's GayToday editor, Jack Nichols on May 21, celebrating
Dr. Kameny's 73rd birthday.
That listing was just a
haphazardly-assembled illustrative sampling of the kind of progress which
we have made over the past half-century—progress for which much of the
credit must go to the people who are here this evening, and those who have
Of course we haven’t won
all the battles yet. We still have the military. One third of the
states still have anti-sodomy laws—but then they all did until 1962.
We haven’t actually achieved same-sex marriage yet, but who would even
have imagined domestic partnership laws and policies back then? There
are still very deep reservoirs not merely of prejudice, but of overt virulent
hatred. There are organized powerful structures of what I call “the nutty
fundamentalists”, who have declared war on us, and are waging it vigorously.
They didn’t have their act together even twenty years ago.
But as even the nutty fundamentalists
realize, they are losing their war. The tide is with us. We are winning
because without a doubt, we are right and they are wrong. We are
moral and they are immoral. We are American and they are un-American and
anti-American. All of us have always known that, of course.
It has been our driving motivation. Our success has been in significantly
persuading the American public that that is so. And there we have
pulled off a coup of the most incredible proportions, for which all of
us can rightly congratulate ourselves.
Sadly, as we all know, one
of the old stalwarts, one of the indispensable foot-soldiers, is no longer
with us. Jim Kepner had a longer history in this effort than almost
anyone here, if not everyone here. While I did not get to know him
as well as I might have—we were perpetually 3,000 miles apart and operated
in parallel but somewhat different universes—we were always on friendly
terms. I last saw him unexpectedly in 1993 in Washington, when by
sheer chance, we marched near each other. Fortunately, he lived long
enough to have seen and to have helped to chronicle and preserve the record
of the successes which he helped so much to achieve.
While all the battles are
far from won, there is one major difference between the current situation,
and that which faced us in past decades. We were then almost alone—a
small handful of people, without troops and without allies. Nowadays,
the troops are there is vast numbers, and allies are emerging from every
quarter up to and including the very highest levels of government.
In 1968, I coined the slogan
“Gay is Good”. We have always known that; acceptance of it represents
the indispensable bottom-line rationale for everything that we have done
over the past half-century. We here have made it much better. And we pass
the torch on to those who will make it perfect. I am confident that they
will. And soon.
(Dr. Kameny has done
minor editing for print publication)