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Frank Kameny Dies: D.C. Politicians Pay Tribute To Gay-Rights Pioneer

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FRANK KAMENY
U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with gay rights activist Frank Kameny (3R) after he signed a memorandum on federal benefits and non-discrimination as (L-3L) Vice President Joseph Biden, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), and Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) look on in the Oval Office of the White House June 17, 2009 in Washington, DC. Obama signed the memorandum to extend benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees. | Getty

WASHINGTON -- D.C. politicians are paying tribute to Frank Kameny, the gay rights pioneer who died Tuesday at his home in Dupont Circle.

Kameny, 86, was fired from his job as an astonomer for the Army Map Service in 1957 for being gay. In 1961, Kameny brought the first civil rights case based on sexual orientation to the U.S. Supreme Court. Though the court declined to hear the case, Kameny maintained a lifelong effort to remove legal and social barriers for members of the LGBT community. After a half-century of activism, Kameny was present when President Obama signed a memorandum extending benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees; he was in the audience in December 2010, when President Obama signed legislation repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell.

In 2009, Kameny received a formal apology from the federal government for his firing. His papers, including the 1961 Supreme Court petition, are archived in the Library of Congress.

D.C. Councilmember Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), who participated in the 2010 unveiling of Frank Kameny Way in Northwest D.C., released a statement honoring Kameny for his "contributions to the gay rights movement here in the District and around the country simply cannot be overstated. He risked everything not only for what he knew was right, but also to blaze a trail for those who came after him in an effort to lessen their struggle."

Evans' openly gay colleague, David A. Catania (I-At-Large) also released a statement honoring Kameny and his legacy. "Dr. Kameny will be missed greatly, but his contributions and life’s work undoubtedly will live on."

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