Friday, August 25, 2006

Frank Kameny's Papers:

A few days ago Dale Carpenter and others noted gay rights legend, Frank Kameny's papers are archived online. You can find them here.

I must confess I've gotten to know Frank, somewhat personally, through a private listserv to which we both belong, and while I don't always agree with his politics (which are further to the left than mine) or his religion (he's a fervent atheist along the lines of Dawkins and Dennett) he's one of the most spirited men I've ever run into.

And, with a Ph.D. from Harvard in Astronomy, he's a brilliant dude.

But more importantly, his papers are useful. Granting "sexual orientation" some official status as a civil rights category is a controversial issue. Some on the right fault gays for even "asking" for such, noting that you can't compare race with sexuality. And while many gay rights advocates often invoke the racial analogy, it has become, in my eyes, more of a thoughtless platitude of the anti-gay right to claim "you can't compare sexual orientation with race, therefore no civil protection for you." If we lived in a world where race and only race was the only protected anti-discrimination category, the point might be apt. But that's not the world we live in. Instead, it's race, color, gender, religion, ethnic origin, age, disability, pregnancy at the federal level and many others, including "sexual orientation" at the state level.

And while many of these groups have been mistreated by society (though none worse than blacks), Frank Kameny's papers document the sometimes terrible mistreatment gays suffered at the hands of the law. Kameny himself was disqualified for work in the federal government and had a prospective career as an astronaut ruined simply for being gay. If you want it spelled out more clearly, "[r]ead this 1960 Letter from the U.S. State Department (John W. Hanes, Administrator) to Dr. Kameny confirming that the Department 'does not hire homosexuals and does not permit their employment.'"


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