Dr. Frank Kameny

Uploaded by USOPM on 02.11.2009


Good morning.
My name is Myer Percel, I'm the President of the OPM
chapter of Globe.
Want to welcome everybody to the first Pride event to be
held at this agency since 2002.
Started at this agency in 1988, I was probably one of
the first out employees here.
After I got out of training as a basic claims examiner
and got my desk I put a picture of my partner and
our dog on the desk and had a parade of people for the
next week walking behind me taking a look and gasping.
It was other gay employees.
They had never seen somebody put a picture of their
partner and child as it was on their desk.
And so began a very slow but determined drive to get
recognized as an employee association here at OPM.
1993 we were recognized as an official employee
association by then directory Jim King.
With the help of the American Federation of
Government Employees.
So as Bob Dylan said, and I'm a child of the 60s, the
times they are a changing.
We're honored today to have one of the pioneers of the
gay rights movement with us who will be speaking later
before we move to the very short film clip after
Stonewall and before Stonewall I will ask
everybody to please place your cell phones on vibrate.
If you'll pay attention to the screen.
EO10450 outlined the fact that a person who had a top
secret clearance could not continue after having
acknowledged involvement in homosexual activities.
Your first year is a probationary year and
there's normally an investigation during that
year and I was called in and they said, "We have
information that leads us to believe that you are
homosexual, do you have any comment?"
And I said, "What's the information?"
And they said, "We can't tell you, that would reveal
our sources."
The sources of our information on these people
generally came from a co-participant.
We were fortunate that when we interviewed some of these
people, which we were required to do before we
left a department, that they furnished us with a long
list of names of others who were similarly involved.
In those days homosexuality as such with not further
reason or rationale was a basis for exclusion from the
civil service and by the end of the year, sort of as a
Christmas present I was out.
We offer them, first of all an opportunity of facing a
board hearing with the department before they went.
We offer them an opportunity to resign.
I don't think we had had ten hearings and we separated
900 to 1000 employees of the Department of State.
So I proceeded to appeal administratively through the
formal appeal procedures which went up a few steps
and then I always follow avenues to their end so I
appealed ultimately up until the White House and got
nowhere there.
I attempted to appeal up to the House and Senate civil
service committees which were not terribly sympathetic.
Today marks a historic step towards the changes we seek
but I think we all have to acknowledge, this is only
one step.
Among the steps we have not yet taken is to appeal to
the Defense of Marriage Act.
I believe it's discriminatory, I think it
interferes with state's rights and we will work with
Congress to overturn it.
We've got more work to do to ensure that government
treats all its citizens equally, to fight injustice
and intolerance in all its forms, and to bring about
that more perfect union.
I'm committed to these efforts and I pledge to work
tirelessly on behalf of these issues during the
months and years to come.
Thank you very much everybody, and with that I'm
going to sign this executive order.
Thank you.
I'm clearly Len Hirsh.
It's wonderful to see you all, thank you Director
Berry, thank you OPM and thank you OPM Globe for
having this wonderful event celebrating this
extraordinary human being.
For those of us in the lesbian, gay, bisexual,
transgender movement, it's hard to think how much
further back we would be in terms of gaining our rights
had it not been for this singular individual.
Frank's intelligence and capacity were proven before
he came to Washington in his service to this country in
his getting his PhD from Harvard and being hired directly.
When he was so unfairly fired Frank didn't do what
was implied in that film's script.
Not script, I mean that was real interview, by someone
who said, "Well we interviewed them before they left."
What do they mean by that?
They mean that someone who was accused of being gay or
lesbian was brought into a room, told that they would
either be fired or jailed, and that it would follow
them for the rest of their lives unless they ratted out
on other people.
And as you heard, many of them ratted out.
Many of them, to protect themselves, their
livelihoods gave names.
The only names Frank gave are ones that we can't
publish in the newspaper.
He said, "Are you crazy?"
And he fought the government at great cost to himself, at
great cost to his livelihood, what he had
trained for, he never did again professionally.
He studied the law, knew it by the end inside and out to
the point where he was advising others on their
lawsuits because he won and he had a history of winning
and advocacy, lifting his voice as you'll hear, he has
a wonderful voice, loud, strong, patriotic, to help
move this country further in the direction of
non-discrimination and equal rights.
He's a hero to many of us, he's a certain hero to me,
Federal Globe never would have been able to start or
do anything had we not had the foundation that Frank
gave us.
So with my joy and pleasure, Frank Kameny.
Thank you very much.
Some of the things I was going to say, in the very
words I was going to say them, you've already seen
and I've been preempted.
I'd been asked to speak for about 20 minutes or so
during which time I'm supposed to cover what
amounts to roughly 120 years of history.
So I'm going to have to be sort of superficial.
Ordinarily I tell people that I'm somewhat loquacious
and they'll be out of here by dawn or at certain at
least by midnight.
Not today, so with apologies for certain superficiality
even greater than what I had anticipated in my prepared
remarks, let me go ahead.
As many of you know the civil service was founded in
rebellion against the spoils system by President Chester A.
Arthur in 1883 and basic principles were set up at
that time, including disqualification for immoral
conduct, infamous and notoriously disgraceful
conduct, but there was nothing, at least that I
know of, systematically anti-gay for a number of
decades thereafter.
In January or February 1948, I remember it well, the
Kinsey report was published and that changed everything.
That created a furor, it was denounced on the floor of
the house of representatives and among other things there
were two senate committee hearings, the holy committee
and the worry committee.
The holy committee ran to great length about the
employment of perverts in the federal government.
The worry committee specifically urged, and this
was followed up on, the creation of what is still
called, I think it still exists perhaps, the morals
division of the Metropolitan Police Department and their
goal was to arrest gay people on any excuse
whatsoever at all, interrogate them at length,
get names from them of other gay people, and pass these
lists on into the civil service commission so that
those people could be fired or disqualified
from employment.
Simultaneously at that period the Cold War was
heating up and again the whole security clearance
system was being created and in April 1953 Eisenhower
issued executive order 10450 which created sexual
perversion as a basis for denial of security clearances.
The ground being that gay people were supposedly
subject to blackmail for disclosure of classified
information, government secrets.
Now the reality is there, which people even then, and
certainly not now still, were not aware is that in
the entire history of western espionage, there has
only been one single known case of disclosure of
classified government information on the ground of
blackmail for homosexuality.
That was Colonel Alfred Redl in 1912 in the
Austro-Hungarian Army.
He gave secrets to the Russians,
just before World War II.
And for just short of 100 years, gays have been
suffering because of Colonel Redl.
Nobody else.
There have been quite a number of heterosexuals who
were blackmailed for this, that or the other, and gave
secrets, but no gays.
Now the whole issue of security clearances
is a separate issue which has its own complexities and
I'm not going to go into it here today, but the net
result of all of this was that the 1950s for gay
people in government became a reign of terror.
That decade was a real horror story.
In that whole period and on into the 60s we were
assaulted with unrelenting negativism, the
psychiatrists called us sick, the clergy called us
sinners, the lawyers and the government called us felons
and there was nothing to overcome any of that.
To jump ahead of the story just for a moment, in order
to counter all of that in 1968 I coined the slogan,
"gay is good" in parallel for exactly the same
psychodynamics the slogan "black is beautiful" had
been coined.
And if I'm remembered for nothing else after I'm gone,
I would like to be remembered for having coined that.
You can find a good description of what went on
in the 50s in the book The Lavender Scare by David
Johnson, published just a few years ago.
In my case, in 1957 I had my PhD in Astronomy, my
bachelor's in Physics, I took a job with what was
then called - it's changed it's name twice - what was
then called the Army Map Service as an astronomer.
As you heard there I was called in a little bit later
that year, questioned about being allegedly homosexual.
They wouldn't tell me what the information was, so I
wouldn't give them the information they asked for.
And in due course, I was fired, I fought back,
ultimately I ended up, as was mentioned, drafting,
writing my own supreme court petition for right of
sanctuary which to the best of my knowledge was the
first gay rights legal brief every filed anywhere and I
must say after half a century it still reads
pretty well.
I read it just the other day and I very
much like what I said.
The government's habits don't change.
I'm verbose now and I was verbose then.
The government's first criticism was that the brief
was too long.
It was 61 pages.
But at that point the Supreme Court turned down
the case, not unexpectedly in March of 1961.
That ended my own personal case but I've been faced
with the issues, I've been in touch with the then very,
very tiny gay movement, there were five or six gay
organizations in the whole country at that point.
They didn't quite suit my temperament, they were too
bland and defensive and apologetic which I am not.
So I founded the gay movement here in Washington,
the Mattachine Society of Washington, and ended up in
retrospect initiating gay activism and militancy and
within this governmental context we dealt with a
whole range of issues but within the governmental
context there were three types of cases that we
handled, civil service cases, military cases, and
security clearance cases.
We had communication with the Civil Service Commission
and the chairmanship of the infamous John Macy a long
time predecessor of Mr. Berry and who refused to
meet with us initially, there's a whole lengthy
correspondence with my files over at the Library of Congress.
Things were just heating up in those days.
The 60s which really were the late 60s and the early
70s were just getting underway and picketing was
the mode of expression of decent par excellance in the
middle 60s.
So with some trepidation we started picketing.
That was our picketing year.
We picketed the White House three times, the State
Department, the Pentagon, Independence Hall every
Fourth of July for five years up in Philadelphia.
And on June 26th 1965 we picketed the Civil Service
Commission which surprised no end and they then met
with us, not Mr. Macy himself, Kimball Johnson who
was investigation's director of the day met with us.
So at least we got that far anyway.
Meanwhile, I'm not all there, as a paralegal though
I could go in at the lower administrative level and
help people handle cases at the investigative cases.
One I'm using a little story which is perhaps illustrative.
One person was called in for an investigation.
I accompanied him and they said that I could not sit in
the actual room with him.
So they put him into a room in this building, in one of
the upper floors at one end of the building, I think it
was the 20th Street end, and they put me in a room a full
block away, same floor at the other end, and they said
he could consult with me as much as he wanted.
So he and I arranged that I gave him a yellow legal pad
and they would ask him a question, he would copy it
down, read it back to them to make sure he had it correct.
Trot down a whole block to me.
We would discuss it, write out the answer, he would
fetch it back to them, and read it off and get the next
This gave him a lot of exercise that afternoon.
It didn't accomplish much for the government, they
never tried a stunt like that again.
So that sort of was the kind of thing that went on.
In 1965 someone who had heard about my case and
ultimately became one of our officers in the Mattachine
Society, Bruce Scott, was denied a job with
the Labor Department.
He appealed, he won it in the courts, the Civil
Service Commission found some other means for
excluding him, he went through the courts again,
won it a second time in '68 and I was told they were
giving up on him.
He eventually moved back to Illinois and worked in the
state government, in the federal government for the
rest of his life.
A little bit later on in '69 we had Norton versus Macy
and there one of the judges in the DC circuit here
chastised the Civil Service Commission and said that you
have to do more than just turn your head and cry shame.
Other cases came along and finally in '71 or 72 two
cases came up at opposite ends of the country.
Baker and Rowe versus Hampton.
Hampton was the successor to Macy.
Here there were two people who lived up in Gaithersburg
or Germantown, up that way and the other case, his name
was Hickerson in San Francisco.
I served long distance of course for San Francisco as
counsel and advised both of them.
They lost at the administrative level and I
got lawyers for both of them.
They went to court, I put the lawyers in touch with
each other across the country and the whole thing
was orchestrated right on up.
The government lost in November '73 at both ends,
here in the DC circuit and in the district court for
the Northern District of California and there where
they got a temporary restraining order.
The government appealed that and the ninth circuit issued
a permanent injunction.
that sort of required an end to things and I was told by
people here it would take about 18 months to come to
terms with all of that and it took just about that and
in the early summer of 1975 I got a phone call from
someone, again, here and was told that the government has
decided to change its policies to suit you.
Something which one does not often hear!
And which I have cherished for years.
On July 3, 1975 they called a press conference, a news
conference and announced at a couple of different
levels, procedurally that the policy was being changed.
They were rescinding the immoral conduct
criteria all together.
Homosexuality was no longer a basis for disqualification
and that the policies to implement that would be put
into effect.
A couple of years later, '77 or '78, under the Carter
Administration the Civil Service Reform Act went into
effect which changed the name of the Civil Service
Commission to what you are now, the Office of Personnel
Management and included a somewhat vague disclaimer of
discrimination which was able to be interpreted as
planned discrimination on the basis of gays.
That was formalized by the Director of the OPM in 1981,
Scott Campbell as explicitly prohibiting discrimination
against gay people in federal employment.
That pretty much ended things in a general kind of
way, in a procedural, formal, legalistic sense
things were finally nailed down another 20 years later
by President Clinton with executive order in 1997,
with executive order 13087 which amended an earlier, I
think it was a Nixon executive order,
specifically extending prohibitions on
discrimination with regard to sexual orientation.
That closed the matter as far as I was concerned or
thought until just within the last month or two.
Then the storybook ending, where everybody lives
happily ever after, and all of the issues get resolved.
John Berry, an openly gay man was appointed as chair
of the descendent of the same Civil Service
Commission which had explicitly fired me 52 years
earlier for being gay.
I was invited to be present at his swearing in and that
has closed out.
In a way I still haven't really come fully down to
ground on that.
I'm still kind of floating and here we are.
That's my story, I'm open for questions, answers,
commentary, however people want to work it.
Well, still heroic and still, wonderful.
That's John Berry.
I think there is a question why don't we try one.
In 1973, yes.
Which certainly played into the improvement on the part
of the federal government and I just thought it
was an omission.
I couldn't cover everything in 20 minutes.
I warned you about that on the onset.
Well, I just want to say as a member of the task force
we're grateful to you and you know it's just great to
see you there.
Thank you.
Thank you Jamie.
John, as many of you know, Director Berry spent two
different tours at the Smithsonian.
On his first day at the first one I made an
appointment to see him because I was heading then
also Federal Globe and at that point we were somewhat
under attack by Senator Helms who didn't
particularly like us and I went in to tell John who was
our congressional liaison that this was going on and I
hope it didn't have any problems for the
Smithsonian, and I hope he didn't have any problems
that I was openly gay.
And he looked at me and said, "Why should I have any
problems, you have to meet my partner" which I did very
shortly afterwards.
John has been a wonderful friend, fabulous
administrator, a great advocate for so many issues
that we care about and he will be an extraordinary
head here at OPM.
Now John close your eyes for a second.
How many of you are happy that he's here.
You can all thank me for that.
At a meeting during the transition period
I advocated very strongly that it was important to
have someone who truly understood diversity
including GLBT issues at the head of OPM.
I didn't say they needed to be gay or lesbian, I said
they needed to understand the issues.
And the transition team said, "What a good idea."
Here's John, if he doesn't work well, speak to the
transition team.
[laughter and applause]
Frank, I've got to tell you
I'm a little bit worried, I only turned 50 this year and
my memory is about one tenth of yours!
So I'm only worried about what the future holds.
It's been interesting.
I will just add a couple of lines of my experience.
When I was sworn in as the Assistant Secretary for
Policy, Management and Budget at the Department of
the Interior, you know all of the former secretaries
have paintings and the ones that Interior being one of
the older agencies in federal government has a lot
of paintings and you can find them everywhere, you
know in men's rooms, I mean they're everywhere
in the building.
But right outside the walkway that I had to walk
by every morning to go to my office, I passed the
portrait of Caleb Smith whose most notable action as
Secretary of Interior was to fire Walt Whitman from the
Civil Service because of his sexual orientation.
And so I used to love going by that every morning and
sort of wave to him.
It was really something.
I couldn't have done what I've done in my career in
government without Doctor Frank Kameny.
I have been privileged and a security clearance
is a privilege.
I have held the rank of SCI and code word while I
managed law enforcement in the Department of the Treasury.
When I did that in the early 1990s the questions and
discussion about that were very interesting.
A little more rigorous in this area than they were
more recently that I've gone through.
I can only imagine you know what Frank and that
generation went through and the sheer fact that I was
able to hold that was because of the blood, sweat
and tears of Frank and his colleagues and his generation.
I have been giving a speech and I'm just going to give a
short excerpt of it because I think it is relevant.
It is my opinion that the tree of liberty grows but in
one direction, by adding rings.
And it is that miraculous quality that has produced
the proud and sheltering and living tree that we enjoy
today whose branches have withstood the lightening
strike of succession, and the gale force winds of
Fascism and Communism.
The rings of that tree are nourished by honesty and
truth, warmed by love and justice, and rooted in
respect and dignity.
It is my believe that Doctor Frank Kameny's fight to hold
a job that he did well not only as a PhD astronomer
from Harvard, but as a veteran of the United States
Armed Forces from World War II.
His effort and passionate fight for dignity and
respect and with the incidents at Stonewall 40
years ago this year, I would argue are not isolated events.
I believe that they were in fact the formation of a new
ring of life on the American tree of liberty.
How privileged are we in this generation to stand
upon their shoulders and carry forth their fight.
We must not rest until this new ring is secure.
Now the LGBT's ends are very clear and many you will hear
in the media today of an agenda.
This is the agenda.
We shall be honest and open.
We shall work where our abilities allow.
We shall continue to serve our country with bravery and
distinction and we shall love whom our hearts desire.
And with the help of a President who supports this
cause and the aid of courageous fellow country
men and women who love liberty, and God's grace, we
shall prevail.
Now Frank there's very few things I get to do that
bring me greater pride than what I'm about to.
One of the highest honors that this department can
present is our Teddy Roosevelt award and Teddy
Roosevelt was one of those commissioners of the former
US Civil Service Commission that you spoke of and for
whom this building is named and for whom his valiant
courage against the spoil system of his day helped
produce the merit system that we all enjoy and are so
proud of today.
Frank, with this I'm going to present to you the
Roosevelt Award, but with it I also, since a former
director issued you a letter which wasn't as polite and
was a little bit rude, I wanted to add one for the
record books for your pages and I'm going to just read
it very quickly.
Dear Doctor Kameny, in what we know today was a shameful
action, the United States Civil Service Commission in
'57 upheld your dismissal of your job solely on the basis
of your sexual orientation.
In one letter to you an agency official wrote that
the government "does not hire homosexuals and will
not permit their employment."
He went on to say that the homosexual is automatically
a security risk and that he frequently becomes a
disruptive personnel factor in any organization.
Well that part was kind of true.
At least Frank and I try awful hard.
With the fervent passion of a true patriot you did not
resign yourself to your fate or quietly endure this wrong.
With courage and strength you fought back and so today
I am writing to advise you that this policy, which was
at odds with the bedrock principles underlying the
merit based Civil Service has been repudiated by the
United States Government due in large part to your
determination and life's work.
And to the thousands of Americans whose advocacy
your words inspired.
Thus the Civil Service laws, rules, and regulations now
provide that it is illegal to discriminate against
federal employees or applicants based on matters
not related to their ability to perform their jobs,
including their sexual orientation.
Furthermore I am happy to inform you that the
memorandum signed by President Obama on June 17th
directs us, the OPM, the successor to the Civil
Service Commission to issue guidance to all executive
departments and agencies regarding their obligations
to comply with these laws, rules, and regulations.
By virtue of the authority vested in me, as Director of
the Office of Personnel Management it is my duty and
great pleasure to inform you that I am adding my support,
along with that of many other past directors for the
repudiation of the reasoning of the 1957 finding by the
United States Civil Service Commission to dismiss you
from your job solely on the basis of your
sexual orientation.
Please accept our apologies for the consequences of this
previous policy of the United States Government and
please accept the gratitude and appreciation of the
United States Office of Personnel Management for the
work you have done to fight discrimination and protect
the merit based Civil Service System.
Frank, thank you.