Obama hasn’t given us much of what he promised on the campaign trail but he did give 250 “professional” gays a swanky cocktail party at the White House to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Stonewall. Oh, if only those drags queens from the Stonewall Inn who wielded their high heels to beat cops over the head could have been there, my, my.
It’s easy, way too easy, to be critical of Obama but I do want to laud an official act that the administration took that began to recognize the LGBT community’s longstanding discrimination in employment and to apologize for it.
John Berry the administration’s most senior gay official, director of the Office of Personnel Management, offered an apology to one of the most brilliant and courageous pioneers in our civil rights movement, Frank Kameny. Kameny lost his government job for being gay and he fought back all the way to the Supreme Court and lost. He fought back when it wasn’t fashionable and he spent his life fighting for LGBT rights. Berry acknowledged this in a letter to Kameny.
“In what we know today was a shameful action, the United States Civil Service Commission in 1957 upheld your dismissal from your job solely on the basis of your sexual orientation,” Berry’s letter states. “… And 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 … 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 apology for the consequences of the previous policy of the United States government.”
“Apology accepted,” Kameny replied.
This apology to Kameny makes me feel more sanguine about the Obama administration.
Check out Kameny and see some vintage footage of a protest that he and Barbara Gittings mounted in the early 1960s outside the White House.