LGBTQ Rights Pioneer Frank Kameny Celebrated with Google Doodle

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Wednesday June 2, 2021

Google launched Pride Month with a special tribute to an early pioneer for equality: A "doodle" depicting trailblazer Frank Kameny, the scientist who fought back after being fired by the federal government during the "Lavender Scare."

Kameny is "considered one of the most significant figures of the LGBTQ movement in the US," CNET recalled. "Long before the Stonewall uprising, Kameny was at the forefront of a movement to change the public's perception of gay people."

Born in 1925, Kameny was a World War II veteran and a Harvard graduate, having earned both his MA and Ph.D. in astronomy at the prestigious university.

Kameny "went on to take a job in 1957 at the US Army Map Service but was soon fired after his supervisors learned he was gay," the CNET story continued, adding that his firing was part of a purge of civil servants that is now recalled as the "Lavender Scare."

"At the time, under Executive Order 10450, 'sexual perversion' was considered a security risk and thus grounds for dismissal from federal employment. Thousands of federal employees were fired because of the order, which was signed in 1953 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower."

But Kameny refused to take his dismissal lying down. Instead, he fought back in the courts. He took his case to the steps of the Supreme Court, where he was turned away when the court refused to hear his appeal.

Despite being rebuffed by the highest court in the land, Kameny continued his quest for legal equality. Meanwhile, "a few federal courts began ruling in his favor by 1969," according to a 2017 post made by the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce. "More gay rights organizations also developed such as the Mattachine Society (1950) as well as the Daughters of Bilitis (1955)."

"Kameny is often credited as the first to stage a gay rights protest," notes Newsweek in its article about the Google doodle, recalling the time the astronomer organized and led a 10-person protest "in front of the White House, and later the Pentagon, with signs that included: 'Homosexuals Ask For the Right to the Pursuit of Happiness.'"

But perhaps his greatest victory was the successful effort in which Kameny and fellow LGBTQ equality champion Barbara Gittings "challenged the American Psychiatric Association's classification of homosexuality as a mental disorder," Newsweek recalled.

"In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) removed the diagnosis of 'homosexuality' from the second edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM)," recounted American psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Jack Drescher in a 2015 paper on the subject.

Two years later, "the Civil Service Commission finally reversed its ban on LGBTQ employees," Newsweek noted, adding that Kameny received an apology from the United States government in 2009.

Once clicked, the Google doodle of Kameny unleashes a celebratory display of confetti and depictions of a variety of LGBTQ-themed flags, including the Progress Pride Flag, the transgender flag, the intersex flag, the asexual and pansexual flags, and several others.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.