Frank Kameny: who was the astronomer and gay rights activist honoured in Pride Google Doodle?

Kameny became one of the most celebrated figures in LGBT+ activism after being fired from his job in the US army over his sexuality.

Google has replaced its logo with a cartoon image of Frank Kameny in honour of Pride month, celebrated in June.

When the image of Kameny is clicked on, the page takes you to a series of results about the late activist and astronomer, while a series of confetti and pride flags tumble down the screen.

But who was Frank Kameny, and what did he do?

Frank Kameny (R) with President Barack Obama.Frank Kameny (R) with President Barack Obama.
Frank Kameny (R) with President Barack Obama.

Who was Frank Kameny?

Born in New York in 1925, Frank was drafted into the US army aged 17 and served throughout World War Two in Europe.

He then went on to Harvard University, where he studied and taught astronomy, before later being hired by the United States Army Map Service as an astronomer.

His tenure didn’t last long, however, before the army found out about an arrest made on Kameny years earlier after a stranger groped him at a bus stop.

The army questioned Kameny, but he refused to reveal information about his sexual orientation. As a result, he was fired shortly afterwards in 1957 and later banned from future employment with the federal government.

Kameny then formally appealed his firing through the judicial system, losing twice before seeking a review from the United States Supreme Court - marking the first known civil rights claim based on sexual orientation.

His petition, however, was turned down.

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What did he do after he was fired?

Kameny spent the rest of his life dedicating himself to activism for gay rights, becoming one of the most notable LGBT+ activists in US history.

In 1961, not long after Kameny was fired, he and Jack Nichols, co-founder of the Washington D.C branch of early gay rights group the Mattachine Society, began protesting outside the White House - some of the earliest such public protests for gay people and lesbians.

Over time, the protests spread to other important buildings around the country, becoming a series of pickets known as the ‘Annual Reminder for Gay Rights’.

Kameny also wrote to Kennedy - President at the time - asking him to change the rules on gay people being purged from the government.

Later, in 1971, Kameny became the first openly gay candidate for the US Congress, though was defeated by his opponent.

Following this, he created the Gay and Lesbian Alliance of Washington, D.C: an organisation devoted to lobbying the government on LGBT+ issues.

He continued to advocate for gay rights until his death in 2011, receiving multiple awards for his activism in this area.

Why is Pride month celebrated in June?

The roots of Pride celebrations come from the 1969 Stonewall riots, which began on June 28, 1969 in New York.

At the time, police would regularly raid bars in the city that they suspected were gay bars, harassing the people inside. At the time, homosexuality was banned in certain areas of law, and being caught in a gay bar could cost a person their job.

A bar in Greenwich Village, New York, was one such place which was regularly raided.

On June 28, 1969, however, the clientele decided to fight back then they got violently raided, retaliating against police and protesting for several days following the raid.

The Stonewall riots are widely considered one of the most pivotal events in the history of gay rights, sparking the first official Pride parade the following year.

Ever since then, Pride has marked this event, celebrating LGBT+ people and drawing attention to the issues still faced by the community today.

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