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Pioneering Gay Activist Frank Kameny Honored in DC

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BRETT ZONGKER

WASHINGTON – Memorials are being planned for gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny, who died this month, and the Smithsonian Institution opened a special display of some of Kameny’s picket signs on Friday.

Friends of Kameny have organized a farewell viewing on Nov. 3 at the historic Carnegie Library. It will run from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. A formal public memorial service and burial are being planned for a later date.

Kameny died Oct. 11 at 86. He left behind a 50-year legacy as an advocate who led the first gay rights march in front of the White House and Philadelphia’s Independence Hall. He took his case to the Supreme Court in 1961 after he was fired from his job as a government astronomer for being gay.

Kameny was born in 1925 in New York City and went on to serve in World War II and earn a doctorate in astronomy at Harvard University. Later in life, he said he wanted to be remembered for coining the phrase “Gay is Good,” which he used to counter negative language about gays and lesbians.

On Friday, the National Museum of American History opened a special exhibit of “three of the most resonant picket signs” from Kameny in his honor. Some of them read, “First Class Citizenship for Homosexuals” and “Homosexual Citizens Want to Serve.” The exhibit will be on view through January.

Kameny and the Kameny Papers Project donated the items to the Smithsonian in 2006. The items are part of the museum’s collection preserving the history and struggles for individual and civil rights in the United States.

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