You know you are at an official political event when there are no less than
four American flags on stage. But I could not have been prouder to be an
American yesterday when Dr. Frank Kameny received a long-overdue apology
from the federal government for being fired solely for being honest about
his sexual orientation 52 years ago.
We commemorate Stonewall this week but it is important to know that there were truly courageous folks out and proud prior to 1969.
It must have been particularly sweet for the folks from the federal LGBT employee group, GLOBE, and all of the agency affiliates that were there. It was a terrific crowd, very diverse and clearly fascinated by Frank's brief comments about the history of discrimination, his personal fight and his work as an activist. It was a history lesson, an affirmation and a reality check about how far we have come and how far we still need to go.
How fitting that he was handed the pen by Barack Obama last week when the President signed the memo conferring some benefits to Federal employees. How fitting that the newly appointed openly gay director of the Office of Personnel Management, John Berry, would read the letter and then give Frank their highest honor, the Teddy Roosevelt award.
Having been in the thick of the media surrounding all of the recent controversy over how fast the White House and Congress are moving on our issues, which is colliding perfectly with the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, being in the room gave me pause.
Let's put it into context. Context, information and reality is what I have been providing the media the past few weeks, and this is the perfect time for all of us to take stock as well.
To have an individual who is still alive see the kind of change Frank has made me think that by the time (Goddess willing) I am 84, that I will see the kind of change he has witnessed and been a part of creating. I think we can and we will move forward at an even faster pace in the next few years.
It is truly time for the politicians to catch up with the culture. This is not 1993, and there is far more support out there and we need our politician to have the spine to move forward on ENDA, DOMA, DADT, hate crimes legislation and all of the other issues we care about.
What us clear is that the last few weeks seem to have awakened a bit of a sleeping beast in our community and I hope we can channel all of that anger, frustration and impatience where it needs to go - the Congress, local elected official and the White House - in a constructive and effective manner. I firmly believe Clinton underestimated the backlash to supporting our community and Obama is overestimating it.
It was an honor to be in the room, and as the crowd rose to applaud Frank as he took the letter and Roosevelt award from Berry, you could still hear his distinctive voice over it all. "Apology accepted." It did not get much media attention but it was just last week that the Congress apologized for Jim Crow laws and slavery.
I hope as we commemorate and honor Stonewall and look past Pride month into the next phase of our community's struggle for full equality under the law and the respect we deserve, that we can be willing to work with those who may well be delivering some apologies in the future.