A soon-to-be-installed memorial headstone honoring gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny will be dedicated on Nov. 11 at Congressional Cemetery as part of a Veterans Day service for LGBT veterans, according to an announcement by the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community, which is sponsoring the event.
In addition to honoring Kameny and his role as a World War II combat veteran, the observance will honor the late Vietnam War veteran Leonard Matlovich. Through Kameny’s assistance, Matlovich in 1975 became the first active duty military service member to challenge the military’s ban on gays.
Matlovich’s decision to come out as gay following Kameny’s coaching is credited with launching the first formal fight against the longstanding ban on LGBT service members.
The Kameny headstone will be installed along with a footstone bearing the expression Kameny coined in 1968, “Gay is Good,” at a site located just behind the memorial headstone and gravesite for Matlovich, which was installed at the time of Matlovich’s death in 1988.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs gave final approval of the memorial marker headstone for Kameny earlier this month and was expected to deliver the stone to Congressional Cemetery the first week of November. The event marks the end of four years of disagreements and lawsuits over Kameny’s estate, his remains and how to honor the gay pioneer.
Michael Bedwell, a longtime friend of both Kameny and Matlovich who is helping to organize the event, noted that Kameny served in the 58th Armored Infantry Battalion, 8th Armored Division, 9th Army in Germany before he was honorably discharged from the service in 1946.
The Nov. 11 dedication event at Congressional Cemetery is part of an annual Veterans Day tribute to LGBT veterans that the D.C. Center’s military project has organized in recent years.
Among those scheduled to speak at the event is Gordon O. Tanner, the openly gay General Counsel for the U.S. Department of the Air Force. Tanner, an attorney who also serves as the Air Force’s chef legal and ethics official, is a retired Air Force colonel who had been assigned to the Judge Advocate General Corps Reserves.
“Held in honor of the LGBT men and women who have served the U.S. as soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen, and coast guardsmen, this year’s event will be held on Nov. 11, 2015 at 11:00 a.m., the D.C. Center announcement says.