One of the skills I don't practice often enough is the ability to apologize. But how often does a government apologize for anything? The US Government apologized to Dr. Frank Kameny today for dismissing him from his job 52 years ago today because he's gay. (Complete apology and photos after the jump.)
And by virtue of the authority vested in me as Director of the Office Of Personnel Management... I am adding my support, along with that of many other past Directors, for the repudiation of the reasoning of the 1957 finding by the United States Civil Service Commission to dismiss you from your job solely on the basis of your sexual orientation. Please accept our apology for the consequences of the previous policy of the United States government...
Kameny went on to lead the original gay rights protest marches demanding our right to employment over a decade before Stonewall. The activist's home was recently named an official historic landmark. ENDA, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would protect the LGBT community from employment discrimination, was introduced into the House of Representatives today by openly gay Congressman Barney Frank.
The event was hosted by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the successor to the USCSC. Openly gay OPM Director, John Berry, wrote the apology. Kameny also received the OPM's highest award, the Theodore Roosevelt Award, but wasn't aware he would be getting an apology. In a tearful moment, Kameny yelled, "Apology accepted!" when the government officially recognized the error.
I can't imagine being Frank Kameny today - the justification, the closure, and the surprise would overwhelm me too. Wouldn't it you?
June 24, 2009
Franklin E. Kameny, PhD
5020 Cathedral Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20016-2646
Dear Dr. Kameny:
In what we know today was a shameful action, the United States Civil Service Commission in 1957 upheld your dismissal from your job solely on the basis of your sexual orientation. In one letter to you, an agency official wrote that the Government "does not hire homosexuals and will not permit their employment..." He went on to say that "the homosexual is automatically a security risk" and that he "frequently becomes a disruptive personnel factor within any organization."
With the fervent passion of a true patriot, you did not resign yourself to your fate or quietly endure this wrong. With courage and strength, you fought back. And so today, I am writing to advise you that this policy, which was at odds with the bedrock principles underlying the merit-based civil service, has been repudiated by the United States Government, due in large part to your determination and life's work, and to the thousands of Americans whose advocacy your words have inspired.
Thus, the civil service laws, rules and regulations now provide that it is illegal to discriminate against federal employees or applicants based on matters not related to their ability to perform their jobs, including their sexual orientation. Furthermore, I am happy to inform you that the Memorandum signed by President Obama on June 17, 2009 directs the Office of Personnel Management--the successor to the CSC--to issue guidance to all executive departments and agencies regarding their obligations to comply with these laws, rules, and regulations.
And by virtue of the authority vested in me as Director of the Office Of Personnel Management, it is my duty and great pleasure to inform you that I am adding my support, along with that of many other past Directors, for the repudiation of the reasoning of the 1957 finding by the United States Civil Service Commission to dismiss you from your job solely on the basis of your sexual orientation. Please accept our apology for the consequences of the previous policy of the United States government, and please accept the gratitude and appreciation of the United States Office of Personnel Management for the work you have done to fight discrimination and protect the merit-based civil service system.
(Photo credit: Office of Personnel Management)