Tag Archives: LGBT Hero

Veterans Day Tribute: Technical Sgt. Leonard P. Matlovich America’s 1st. Out Gay Serviceman

Veterans Day Tribute: Sgt. Leonard P. Matlovich America's 1st Out Gay Serviceman - 1975 Video Interview
Today on Veterans Day we honor all Americans who have served in the armed forces.

One man who must be honored for his bravery to our country and our community is Sergeant Leonard P. Matlovich

Technical Sergeant Leonard P. Matlovich was a Vietnam War veteran, race relations instructor, and recipient of the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.  He was also the first gay service member to fight the ban of gays in the military. His fight to stay in the United States Air Force after coming out of the closet resulted in articles in newspapers and magazines throughout the country, numerous television interviews, and a television movie on NBC. His photograph appeared on the cover of the September 8, 1975, issue of Time magazine, making him a symbol for thousands of gay and lesbian service members and the gay community.

In March 1974, previously unaware of the organized gay movement, Matlovich read an interview in the Air Force Times with gay activist Frank Kameny who had counseled several gays in the military over the years. He called Kameny in Washington, D.C. and learned that Kameny had long been looking for a gay service member with a perfect record to create a test case to challenge the military’s ban on gays. Four months later, he met with Kameny at the longtime activist’s Washington, D.C. home. After several months of discussion with Kameny and ACLU attorney David Addlestone during which they formulated a plan, he hand-delivered a letter to his Langley AFB commanding officer on March 6, 1975. When his commander asked, “What does this mean?” Matlovich replied, “It means Brown versus the Board of Education” – a reference to the 1954 landmark Supreme Court case outlawing racial segregation in public schools.

Perhaps the most painful aspect of the whole experience for Matlovich was the revelation to his parents. He told his mother by telephone. She was so stunned she refused to tell Matlovich’s father. Her first reaction was that God was punishing her for something she had done, even if her Roman Catholic faith would not have sanctioned that notion. Then, she imagined that her son had not prayed enough or had not seen enough psychiatrists. She later admitted that she had suspected the truth for a long time. His father finally found out by reading it in the newspaper, after his challenge became public knowledge on Memorial Day 1975 through an article on the front page of The New York Times and that evening’s CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite. Matlovich recalled, “He cried for about two hours.” After that, he told his wife that, “If he can take it, I can take it.”

During his September 1975 administrative discharge hearing, an Air Force attorney asked him if he would sign a document pledging to “never practice homosexuality again” in exchange for being allowed to remain in the Air Force. Matlovich refused. Despite his exemplary military record, tours of duty in Vietnam, and high performance evaluations, the panel ruled Matlovich unfit for service and he was recommended for a General, or Less than Honorable, discharge. The base commander, Alton J. Thogersen, citing his service record, recommended that it be upgraded to Honorable. The Secretary of the Air Force agreed, confirming Matlovich’s discharge in October 1975. He sued for reinstatement, but the legal process was a long one, with the case moving back and forth between United States District and Circuit Courts. When, by September 1980, the Air Force had failed to provide US District Court Judge Gerhard Gesell an explanation of why Matlovich did not meet their criteria for exception (which by then had been eliminated but still could have applied to him), Gesell ordered him reinstated into the Air Force and promoted. The Air Force offered Matlovich a financial settlement instead, and convinced they would find some other reason to discharge him if he reentered the service, or the conservative US Supreme Court would rule against him should the Air Force appeal, Matlovich accepted. The figure, based on back pay, future pay, and pension was $160,000.

Leonard Matlovich did not live to see the day when gay men and women could openly serve in the military. He died on June 22, 1988, less than a month before his 45th birthday, of complications from HIV/AIDS

His tombstone is meant to be a memorial to all gay veterans. It does not bear his name and simply  reads:

“When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.”

Below is the first television interview with Sgt. Leonard Matlovich from 1975.

Same Sex Marriage Pioneer Edie Windsor, Winning Plaintiff in DOMA Case, Dies at 88

Its with a sad heart that we have to report that Edie Windsor,  whose landmark legal case paved the way for gay marriage, has died at 88.

Widsor was the plaintiff in Windsor vs. U.S., a 2013 Supreme Court landmark case that knocked down the Defense of Marriage Act’s discrimination against LGBT couples in 2013.

Windsor, in her legal battle, asked for a tax refund after her Canadian marriage to Thea Spyer was not recognized by the U.S. government when Spyer died in 2009.

Theo and Edie lived together for more than 40 years, many with Spyer suffering from Multiple Sclerosis and Windsor helping with her care. 

The fight that she helped lead to the 2013 Supreme Court decision that  allowed same-sex married couples to receive federal benefits when few major LGBT organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign would back her, contributed to the legal reasoning behind 2015’s Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized gay marriage across the U.S.

Edie Windsor will go down in history as a legend in the LGBT community.

 

Great Britain To Grant Posthumous Pardon To Alan Turing Father of Computer Science

Alan Turing

Great Britain will be granting Alan Turing  who is widely considered to be the father of computer science and artificial intelligence  a posthumous pardon . Turing committed suicide after being convicted of gross indecency under Britain’s anti-homosexuality code.

The government signaled on Friday that it is prepared to support a backbench bill that would pardon Turing, who died from cyanide poisoning at the age of 41 in 1954 after he was subjected to “chemical castration”. Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, a government whip, told peers that the government would table the third reading of the Alan Turing (statutory pardon) bill at the end of October if no amendments are made. “If nobody tables an amendment to this bill, its supporters can be assured that it will have speedy passage to the House of Commons,” Ahmad said. The announcement marks a change of heart by the government, which declined last year to grant pardons to the 49,000 gay men, now dead, who were convicted under the 1885 Criminal Law Amendment Act. They include Oscar Wilde.

Turing’s homosexuality resulted in a criminal prosecution in 1952, when homosexual acts were still illegal in the United Kingdom. He accepted treatment with female hormones (chemical castration) as an alternative to prison.

Turing died in 1954, just over two weeks before his 42nd birthday, from cyanide poisoning. A formal inquest determined that his death was suicide.

On September 10,  2009, following an Internet campaign, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown made an official public apology on behalf of the British government for “the appalling way Turning was treated.” and in May 2012, a private member’s bill was put before the House of Lords to grant Turing a statutory pardon.

May 22nd is Harvey Milk Day – Watch the Full Length Documentary "The Times of Harvey Milk "

By now, especially after the Oscar winning movie “Milk” everyone should have at least some idea who Harvey Milk was.

But fot those of you who stumbled here and are without a clue heres a great chance to learn something about a true LGBT hero.

Harvey Bernard Milk (May 22, 1930 – November 27, 1978) was an American politician who became the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California, when he won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and served 11 months in office and was responsible for passing a stringent gay rights ordinance for the city. On November 27, 1978, Milk and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated by Dan White, another city supervisor who had recently resigned but wanted his job back. Milk’s election was made possible by and was a key component of a shift in San Francisco politics. The assassinations and the ensuing events were the result of continuing ideological conflicts in the city.

In August 2009, President Barack Obama posthumously awarded Milk the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his contribution to the gay rights movement stating “he fought discrimination with visionary courage and conviction”. Milk’s nephew Stuart Milk accepted for his uncle.  Not long after that, Stuart co-founded the Harvey Milk Foundation with Anne Kronenberg with the support of Desmond Tutu, co-recipient of 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom and now a member of the Foundation’s Advisory Board.  

In late 2009 then California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger designated May 22 as “Harvey Milk Day”, and inducted Milk in the California Hall of Fame.

Staring this year (2011), The Harvey Milk Foundation began coordinating global recognition and celebration of Harvey Milk Day.

Harry Britt summarized Milk’s impact the evening Milk was shot in 1978: “No matter what the world has taught us about ourselves, we can be beautiful and we can get our thing together … Harvey was a prophet … he lived by a vision … Something very special is going to happen in this city and it will have Harvey Milk’s name on it.”

Watch the Oscar-winning documentary film about the career and assassination of San Francisco’s first openly gay man to be elected to office.

Directed by Rob Epstein. and Narrated by Harvey Fierstein

IN MEMORIUM: Adele Starr Gay Rights Activist and First President of PFLAG Passes Away at 90

“We cannot understand those arrogant people who have decided that a heterosexual lifestyle must be imposed on everyone and that they have a monopoly on morality,” she wrote. “The American way is respect for diversity with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” – Adele Starr

Adele Starr died in her sleep Friday at Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, where she had been convalescing after surgery.  Adele was no ordinary woman,  a Brentwood mother of five overcame dismay at her son’s homosexuality to become a leading voice for gay rights and marriage equality activist until her death this weekend at the age of 90

In 1976, Starr founded the Los Angeles chapter of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, a gay rights and acceptance organization known then as Parent FLAG, now as PFLAG.  In 1979, she spoke on the steps of the U.S. Capitol at a march for gay rights — a seminal event often credited with uniting a then-nascent movement.

Two years later, she became PFLAG’s first national president; she served in that capacity until 1986 and remained a forceful advocate for civil rights and, in later years, for the legalization of same-sex marriage and remained fighting and involved for over 40 years until the day she she passed on

Adele Starr is a true hero and LGBT Activist Leader and who we should always remember and be grateful to  She will be missed.

Rest In Peace Adele and Thank you.