By Amb. (ret.) Michael Guest, Senior Advisor, The Council for Global Equality
Word of Frank Kameny’s death yesterday at age 86 seeped in slowly – less thunderbolt than a brewing sadness that a man I would have liked to know better is now gone.
Frank and I met only once, so I hardly can call him friend, and I can add little to the many obituaries that rightly mourn his passing. But I am so deeply grateful to him for his principled and clear-eyed commitment to fairness in America. That quality made him a constant presence in my life, and in the lives of so many other gay federal employees. He truly will be missed.
Not many years before I began my Foreign Service career, gays and lesbians were excluded from the State Department, which irrationally judged us to be security risks. Frank challenged that notion, and fought indeed to ensure that government service, in all agencies, was open to all. That I and countless others were empowered to pursue the careers of which we had dreamed can be laid squarely at Frank’s feet.
Later, when I wrestled with Department policies that discriminated against the families of gay and lesbian Foreign Service personnel, it was Frank’s passion and principle that gave me the courage to continue that fight. Frank knew that equality is an absolute, not an abstract concept. He was and remains an inspiration.
Frank inevitably will be remembered as a “gay activist,” and that of course he was. But look closer at how enormously our COUNTRY has benefited from Frank’s activism! In calling for gays to be treated fairly, Frank aligned himself with America’s founding principles. And by insisting that gay and lesbian citizens be allowed to serve their country, he has opened up a choice of talent that otherwise would be unavailable to our country’s challenges and interests.
Frank served in our country’s military, and so it’s fitting that he lived to see the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” I wish, too, that he had lived to see the wider victories in employment law that we know lie ahead. And I hope that our community leaders will draw from his life’s example the realization that change will only come if we demand it, not patiently request it.
The spirit of America’s promise was always at the core of Frank’s life. Now he is at rest. It’s up to us to fulfill the balance of his mission.