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Kameny’s ashes remain in storage

Cemetery president proposes end to burial impasse

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A headstone and a separate marker inscribed with Frank Kameny’s famous slogan ‘Gay is Good’ have been removed from his gravesite in Congressional Cemetery. (Blade photo by Michael Key)

Nearly 10 months after nationally acclaimed gay rights leader Frank Kameny died in his Washington home at the age of 86, an urn bearing his ashes continues to sit on a shelf in a storage vault in the headquarters building of D.C.’s historic Congressional Cemetery.

Cemetery officials said a dispute between Kameny’s estate and the D.C. gay charitable group Helping Our Brothers and Sisters (HOBS) over ownership rights to the plot where Kameny’s ashes were scheduled to be interred on March 2 forced the cancellation of the interment. HOBS purchased the plot earlier this year without consulting the estate, a development that the estate’s attorney says triggered the dispute.

The ashes, along with a headstone provided by the U.S. Veterans Administration recognizing Kameny’s military service during World War II and a separate marker inscribed with Kameny’s famous slogan “Gay is Good” have languished in storage at the cemetery since shortly after the interment was cancelled.

But in a surprise development on Wednesday, Congressional Cemetery’s new president, Paul Williams, disclosed in an email to the estate and HOBS that HOBS never had legal ownership rights to the Kameny plot because it failed to pay the balance on the purchase price.

“Because it had a balance, no deed was issued for the site to HOBS,” Williams said in his email.

“I propose we issue the deed directly to the estate (copy to HOBS) showing proof of ownership,” he wrote. “The estate would also need to sign an authorization of interment, which can be done at the same time. Then, we can replace the two stones in storage that we also have onsite and proceed with a private interment,” Williams wrote.

Glen Ackerman, an attorney representing the estate on behalf of Timothy Clark, whom Kameny named in his will as the main beneficiary of the estate, said the estate has accepted Williams’ proposal.

He said Williams’ disclosure that HOBS never had a deed to the cemetery plot and that the cemetery would issue the deed to the estate effectively ends the dispute by turning over the plot to Clark and the estate.

HOBS President Marvin Carter couldn’t immediately be reached Wednesday afternoon to comment on Williams’ disclosure that the cemetery planned to issue to the Kameny estate the deed to the cemetery plot.

Ackerman has said all along that the dispute centered on the estate’s desire to own the cemetery plot to ensure, among other things, that no one else would be buried or interred in the plot.

Under cemetery rules, two coffins and three urns may be buried or interred in Congressional Cemetery plots.

HOBS, which purchased the cemetery plot earlier this year from money donated by Kameny’s friends and admirers, has said it had no intention of burying others at the site.

Carter has said he and HOBS were always willing to transfer ownership of the plot to the estate. But people familiar with the dispute have said the point of contention was whether the estate should reimburse HOBS for the purchase price of the plot.

Ackerman has said Clark’s position was that donors from the LGBT community put up the money to buy the plot by giving it to HOBS, a non-profit group with tax-exempt status, so the donors could receive a tax deduction on their contribution. HOBS, in turn, made the purchase on behalf of the donors, the estate has maintained.

Meanwhile, the cemetery’s former interim director, Patrick Crowley, said he had the headstone and marker removed from the gravesite earlier this year until the estate and HOBS reached an agreement over final ownership of the plot.

Ackerman has said Clark and the estate became alarmed in February when a small group of Kameny friends announced in a press release that an interment ceremony for Kameny’s ashes would take place at the cemetery on March 3. Ackerman said organizers of the interment never consulted Clark or the estate, even though the estate had legal rights to the ashes.

Organizers of the interment ceremony abruptly cancelled the ceremony and burial the day before it was scheduled to take place on March 3, saying they did so out of “respect” for the Kameny estate. The urn bearing Kameny’s ashes has been in storage in the cemetery’s offices at 1801 E St., S.E. ever since that time.

The burial ceremony organizers, led by gay rights advocates and longtime Kameny friends Charles Francis and Bob Witeck, have said through intermediaries at the time that they invited Clark to participate in the ceremony and attempted to keep him informed of their plans. They said Ackerman refused to allow them to speak directly to Clark.

Gay activist and longtime Kameny friend Rick Rosendall, who was scheduled to speak at the Kameny interment ceremony, said it was his understanding that it was the estate’s “demand that no interment could be held until the deed to the burial plot was turned over to the estate that led to the event’s cancellation.”

Rosendall said he expressed his hope at the time that the dispute could be resolved. “That is still my hope,” he said.

Ackerman said the estate didn’t learn of the burial service until it obtained a copy of the organizers’ Feb. 13 press release announcing the ceremony.

He said the Kameny friends’ decision to organize the burial without initially consulting Clark or the estate created an atmosphere of mistrust between the two parties. Because of that, he said, Clark has insisted that ownership of the cemetery plot be transferred from HOBS to the estate without charge before the estate would consent to allowing the ashes to be buried.

Clark told the Blade in an interview earlier this year that he planned to keep half of the ashes and would donate the remaining half to be interred at Congressional Cemetery.

Francis and Witeck took initial possession of the ashes following Kameny’s death after Kameny’s sister, Edna Kameny, Kameny’s surviving next of kin, signed over power of attorney for Kameny’s remains to Witeck. Edna Kameny, who lives in New York and is in frail health, told the Blade she was pleased to entrust to Witeck and other Kameny friends the task of carrying out her brother’s stated wish to be cremated and to make funeral and memorial arrangements.

Once the details of Kameny’s will became known, including Clark’s role as personal representative or executor of the estate, Ackerman said it became clear that Clark and the estate should take possession of the ashes.

But when Clark sought to obtain possession of the ashes he said Francis told him the ashes had already been buried, a development that contributed to the mistrust between the estate and the Kameny friends organizing the burial.

Ackerman said it wasn’t until the estate saw the Feb. 13 press release announcing the interment ceremony at Congressional Cemetery that he and Clark learned the ashes had not, in fact, been buried.

When contacted on Wednesday, Francis said he had no comment on the matter, saying the dispute over the ashes is between the estate and HOBS and he has nothing to do with it.

Last week, Congressional Cemetery President Williams said he was hopeful that the dispute between the two parties would be resolved soon but said he couldn’t predict when that would happen.

“We have a little movement,” he told the Blade on July 27, saying negotiations were taking place between the estate and HOBS.

“It’s all confidential so far until everything’s signed. But I can tell you that the two parties have come to an agreement, that being the estate and Helping Our Brothers and Sisters.”

Before being removed earlier this year from this gravesite, the head and foot stones for Frank Kameny were located to the left and in front of head stone shown here, which marks the grave of another person. (Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro Jr.)

However, when reached two days later by phone, Carter told the Blade Williams had just informed him he had a proposal to resolve the dispute but that Williams did not provide any details about the proposal. Carter said Williams told him he would take steps to provide those details soon.

“HOBS has always been willing to work things out,” Carter said. “We’re not interested in continuing to own the gravesite.”

Carter told the Blade in a phone interview on July 29 that he had been out of town for the past few weeks and didn’t have a chance to check mail that may have been sent to HOBS.

“But no one from the estate has called me or emailed me about this recently,” he said. “They have my number and email address.”

Ackerman disputes this assertion, saying he and his law firm repeatedly sent written material to Carter by certified mail. He said the mail was returned to the law firm marked “refused” by recipient.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Rick Rosendall

    August 1, 2012 at 7:38 pm

    I did not say it became difficult to communicate with the Kameny estate. I said that Mr. Ackerman had instructed us not to communicate with Timothy Clark. I told Lou Chibbaro that I was not the organizer or publicist of the planned March 3 interment (I was just one of the planned speakers), and did not know who was contacted. I do know that the dispute over ownership of Dr. Kameny’s ashes and burial plot put the whole thing in legal limbo and forced cancellation of the interment. Ackerman sent me an email on March 2 expressing surprise and disappointment that the March 3 ceremony had been put on hold, but it was his demand that no interment could be held until the deed to the burial plot was turned over to the estate that led to the event’s cancellation. I responded to him that I too was disappointed, without mentioning who was responsible for it, and expressed my hope that the disputes could be resolved. That is still my hope.

  2. Joe Zuniga

    August 3, 2012 at 9:33 am

    THIS is the way we treat our heroes?! Where is the respect that Frank Kameny, even in death, should be afforded?!

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Comings & Goings

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Troy Cline, gay news, Washington Blade
The 'Comings & Goings' column chronicles important life changes of Blade readers.

The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at: [email protected]

The Comings & Goings column also invites LGBTQ+ college students to share their successes with us. If you have been elected to a student government position, gotten an exciting internship, or are graduating and beginning your career with a great job, let us know so we can share your success. 

Shin Inouye, gay news, Washington Blade
Steven McCarty

Congratulations to Steven McCarty on being named president of the Kiwanis Club of Washington, D.C. He said, “I’m honored to be installed as the president of the Kiwanis Club of Washington, D.C. and to be able to shepherd our programs and volunteers to impact youth where they are needed most. Our club’s new partnership with SMYAL has already turned a portion of their Youth Center in Southeast D.C. into the first Clinical Services Department in the District that offers free and affirming mental healthcare to LGBTQ Youth. As an openly gay man, I’m proud to further our club’s mission with radical empathy and inclusion.” McCarty has also recently been awarded Kiwanis’ highest honor, the George Hixson award.

McCarty is a Technical Program Specialist at stac labs in D.C. He is also founder and campaign manager at Abolish Racism 2020. He worked as a Senior Customer Success Manager,  Crowdskout. He was a workplace equality intern at Human Rights Campaign and a summer fellow at Michigan State AFL-CIO, in Lansing, Mich. 

McCarty earned his bachelor’s in Political Science and Communications Studies at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

Congratulations also to Shin Inouye on his appointment as Executive Vice President of Communications, The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and Human Rights, The Leadership Conference Education Fund. 

Wade Henderson, interim president and CEO of The Leadership Conference and The Education Fund said, “We are thrilled Shin Inouye will be taking on even greater responsibilities on our senior leadership team. His incredible talent and commitment to this organization and our work are truly outstanding, and his strategic leadership will no doubt continue moving us forward in the fight to protect and advance civil and human rights.”

Inouye has held a number of positions with the organization including Managing Director of Communications. Inouye also held a number of high-level positions in the Obama administration, including Press Secretary and Acting Senior Adviser for Intergovernmental and External Affairs, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services; Adviser for Intergovernmental and External Affairs, Executive Office of the President; White House Office of Communications: Director of Specialty Media; and served as an authorized spokesperson for the Obama Inaugural Committee, with a focus on specialty media outlets, including LGBTQ, AAPI, Native American, Youth/College, Faith, and Jewish press. Prior to that Inouye was Communications Director in the Office of Congressman Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.) and has also worked for the ACLU and as a summer intern with the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan. 

Inouye received a number of honors including being named One of 25 “LGBTI next generation leaders to watch” by Out in National Security and the Atlantic Council; and One of “40 Asian American Pacific Islander National Security & Foreign Policy Next Generation Leaders” by New America and the Diversity in National Security Network.

Shin Inouye
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Youngkin reiterates opposition to marriage equality

Va. gubernatorial candidate says issue ‘legally acceptable’ in state

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(Photo courtesy of Twitter)

Glenn Youngkin in an interview with the Associated Press has reiterated his opposition to marriage rights for same-sex couples.

Youngkin—a Republican who is running against Democrat Terry McAuliffe to succeed Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam—said in an interview published on Friday that he feels “called to love everyone.” Youngkin then reiterated his opposition to marriage equality before he added it is “legally acceptable” in the state.

“I, as governor, will support that,” Youngkin told the AP.

McAuliffe was Virginia’s governor from 2014-2018.

Same-sex couples began to legally marry in Virginia a few months after McAuliffe took office.

McAuliffe in 2014 became the first governor of a Southern state to officiate a same-sex wedding. The lesbian couple who McAuliffe married recently appeared in one of his campaign ads.

McAuliffe on Friday criticized Youngkin. “As governor, I worked my heart out to keep Virginia open and welcoming to all,” said McAuliffe in a tweet. “This type of bigotry and intolerance has no place in our commonwealth.”

The anti-LGBTQ Family Research Council, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has categorized as an extremist group, earlier this month endorsed Youngkin, but Log Cabin Republicans are among the groups that have backed his campaign. The Human Rights Campaign in 2019 named Youngkin’s former company, the Carlyle Group, as a “Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality” in its annual Corporate Equality Index.

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D.C. school board calls for LGBTQ-inclusive teaching standards

Sweeping resolution proposing content in curricula approved unanimously

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Gay State Board of Education member Allister Chang.

The D.C. State Board of Education voted unanimously on Oct. 20 to approve a resolution calling for LGBTQ+ Inclusive Education Standards for the city’s public schools that “reflect on the political, economic, social, cultural, and scientific contributions and experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.”

The two-page resolution, which was introduced by gay State Board of Education member Allister Chang, who represents Ward 2, cites national research showing that students who have access to LGBTQ+ curricula in their schools “are more likely to report lower frequency of bullying, lower levels of depression, more accepting peers, and greater feelings of safety in school.”

The resolution states that research also shows that multicultural education, including the teaching of LGBTQ topics, “helps prevent the formation of bias and prejudice and creates more democratic communities.”

LGBTQ rights advocates have long considered the local D.C. government through its mayor and City Council to be highly supportive of the LGBTQ community. But Chang and other supporters of the resolution approved by the board Wednesday night say their research shows that D.C. public schools, while supportive of LGBTQ students, are far behind the school systems in several other states in the inclusion of LGBTQ topics in school curricula.

As an example, supporters of the resolution point out that curriculum standards for social studies classes in the D.C. school system include only one mention of LGBTQ people in a teaching section related to victims of the Holocaust.   

Unlike most other cities and states, under current D.C. law, the school system is controlled by the mayor through the D.C. Department of Education, which is headed by a Deputy Mayor for Education and who, in turn and in consultation with the mayor, appoints a State Superintendent of Education who oversees the day-to-day operations of the schools.

Under a change in the education statute approved by the D.C. Council and signed by then-Mayor Adrian Fenty in 2007, the school board, which was renamed the State Board of Education, became a mostly advisory body on education matters with some statutory authority to approve education standards on which school curricula are based.

Thus, the resolution approved by the board on Wednesday “advises” and “recommends” that the State Superintendent of Education develop school curricula, guidance for teachers, and school-based leaders and staff “in providing LGBTQ+ inclusive lessons and practices in their classrooms.”

The resolution concludes by recommending that the State Superintendent of Education conduct a survey of students within two years after the Oct. 20 adoption of the resolution “to establish baseline data and to gain an understanding of the current experiences of LGBTQ+ students across the district and what all students know and understand about the contributions and experiences of LGBTQ+ people in the relevant subject areas.”

Chang and other members of the State Board of Education noted at the Oct. 20 meeting, which was virtual, that Will Beckerman, who graduated this year from D.C.’s School Without Walls High School, played an important role in conducting the research used to prepare the LGBTQ standards resolution and helped in the drafting of the resolution.

Chang noted that much of the background information used to draft the resolution came from Beckerman’s senior year school research paper and advocacy project that focuses on the topic of LGBTQ-inclusive education.

In comments supporting the resolution, Chang also spoke about how the very limited LGBTQ content he encountered during his high school days helped him accept himself as a gay youth.

“As a student myself, I don’t remember a single mention of any LGBTQ people in any of my classwork until I read Thomas Mann in my senior year in high school,” Chang said. “And in Death in Venice, this Nobel Prize winner touches upon his struggles with homosexuality but never actually names it explicitly,” Chang told fellow board members.

“And I remember holding on to this novella despite the self-hatred that’s woven throughout this story because it was the first time that I saw this aspect of my identity reflected in my class work,” he said. “My hope – and I think this hope comes true with this resolution tonight – is that future generations of LGBTQ students have more opportunities to see themselves reflected in their class work and to feel less isolated by their class work than I did growing up.”

It couldn’t immediately be determined whether D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser will endorse the school system changes proposed by the resolution approved by the State Board of Education.

The full text of the resolution follows:

State Board of Education Resolution

On LGBTQ+ Inclusive Education Standards

SR21-7

WHEREAS, the 2019 District of Columbia Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that lesbian, gay, and bisexual students make up 15.9 percent of high school students in the District and transgender students make up1.9 percent of District high school students;

WHEREAS, in the District, these students, in comparison to their heterosexual peers, experience double the rate of bullying on school property, report higher rates of being removed from class for disciplinary reasons, and are more than twice as likely to experience suicidal ideation;

WHEREAS, national data shows that lesbian, gay, and bisexual students are significantly more likely to receive grades of D or F than their heterosexual peers and were more likely to be truant;

WHEREAS, consistent research suggests that students with LGBTQ+ inclusive curricula in their schools are more likely to report lower frequency of bullying, lower levels of depression, more accepting peers, and greater feelings of safety in school—and this safety leads students to report higher attendance, higher GPAs, a greater sense of belonging in the school community, and higher educational aspirations;

WHEREAS, research shows that multicultural education helps prevent the formation of bias and prejudice and creates more democratic communities ; 

WHEREAS, the State Board of Education recognizes the need to have revised social studies standards that create “windows and mirrors” so students see themselves and people like them reflected in the content of standards and curriculum, as well as having the opportunity to learn about diverse people, cultures, places, and experiences unlike themselves—explicitly noting that the current standards emphasize the lives of presidents and other figures who held/hold power and under-represent or lack representation of people and groups like those identifying as LGBTQ+, and their respective histories;

WHEREAS, in the State Board of Education’s review and revision of the social studies standards, the State Board called upon the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) to “seek standards writers who reflect the demographics and experiences of District students and of the communities they are writing about” sharing a list of examples that included writers identifying as LGBTQ+;

WHEREAS, the State Board of Education is committed to ensuring students acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to be engaged global citizens in a diverse democratic society; and,

WHEREAS, the State Board of Education has a commitment to promote equity, introduce policies to reduce disparities between students, and create safe school environments for all students.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT, upon the next revision of any District of Columbia state education standards, the State Board of Education should adapt standards, when appropriate, that reflect on the political, economic, social, cultural, and scientific contributions and experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT, the State Board of Education advises the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) to provide guidance to teachers and school-based leaders and staff on creating inclusive lessons in science and English language arts (ELA) classes that align with Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and Common Core ELA standards, respectively;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT, the State Board of Education recommends that the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) implement professional development for teachers and school-based leaders and staff to aid them in providing LGBTQ+ inclusive lessons and practices in their classrooms, such that that the professional development includes: workshops for local education agencies (LEAs) and teachers to draft curriculum related to LGBTQ+ topics in their subject areas, lessons on use of inclusive language in the classroom, lessons on ensuring LGBTQ+ students’ safety and confidentiality while maintaining respect for their name and pronouns, and mandatory diversity training related to the LGBTQ+ community; and,

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED THAT, the State Board of Education recommends that the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) survey students within two (2) years of adoption of this resolution to establish baseline date and to gain an understanding of the current experiences of LGBTQ+ students across the district and what all students know and understand about the contributions and experiences of LGBTQ+ people in the relevant subject areas.

https://osse.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/osse/publication/attachments/2019%20DC%20YRBS%20Report.pdf

Brikett, Michelle et al. “Sexual-orientation disparities in school: the meditational role of indicators of victimization in achievement and truancy because of feeling unsafe.” American Journal of Public Health vol. 104, 6 (2014): 1124-8. doi: 10.2105/AJHP.2013.301785

Kosciw, Joseph G., et al. “The 2019 National School Climate Survey: The Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Youth in Our Nation’s Schools.” GLSEN, GLSEN, 2020, glsen.org.

Camicia, Steven P. Critical Democratic Education and LGBTQ-Inclusive Curriculum: Opportunities and Constraints. Routledge Focus, 2016.

Camicia, Steven P. “Prejudice Reduction through Multicultural Education: Connecting Multiple Literatures.” Social Studies Research and Practice, vol. 2, no. 2, 2007, pp. 219–227.

socstrpr.org/files/Vol%25202/Issue%25202%2520-%2520Summer%25202007/Action%2520Research/2.2.6.pdf

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