You've got to laugh (that's an order) at how Harvard men are helping to lead the latest civil-rights struggle. Barney Frank '61, J.D. '77, fighting for gay rights in the House, Ted Kennedy '54 in the Senate...Tyler professor of constitutional law Larry Tribe '62, J.D. '66, championing the cause before the Supreme Court...David Gillis '89, allowing his marriage to be televised nationwide--it's a leadership role not every alumnus is likely to embrace; but it is, others would argue, leadership very much in the Harvard tradition.
|Kevin Jennings at a party for the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) in New York City. Photograph by Marc Royce|
A quick sampling:
Astronomer Frank Kameny, Ph.D. '56, filed the world's first gay antidiscrimination lawsuit after he was fired by the government in 1957 simply for being gay. (Not until 1975 did the Civil Service drop its ban on gay employees.) He founded the Mattachine Society of Washington (named for court jesters in medieval Italy who were permitted to speak the truth from behind a mask) and led the effort to have homosexuality removed from the American Psychiatric Association's list of psychiatric disorders. That was achieved in 1973, but not before one particularly dramatic point in the fight, at the 1971 APA annual meeting: Kameny recalls honoree psychiatrists on the dais beating gay activists over the head with their gold medals.
Craig Davidson '76, together with his lover, Mike Valentini, J.D. '81, helped found the Gay and Lesbian Alliance against Defamation--GLAAD. An early victory: persuading Bob Hope to produce a public-service spot condemning antigay violence after calling someone a "fag" on the Tonight Show.
Tim McFeeley, J.D. '72, ran the Human Rights Campaign Fund for five years.
Sheila Kuehl, J.D. '78, was elected speaker pro tem of the California State Assembly and, this past year, to Harvard's Board of Overseers, becoming its first openly gay Overseer.
Kevin Jennings '85 founded GLSEN, the 70-chapter Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.
Ben Schatz '81, J.D. '85, is executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Foundation.
Bill Rubenstein, J.D. '86, developed the ACLU Lesbian and Gay Rights Project.
Rich Tafel, M.Div. '87, founded and heads the Log Cabin Republicans.
Marty Duberman, Ph.D. '57, founded the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies at the City University of New York.
Kevin Cathcart, Ed.M .'78, heads the Lambda Legal Defense team.
Michelle Benecke, J.D. '92, runs the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.
Keith Boykin, J.D. '92, runs the Black Gay and Lesbian Leadership Forum.
Allan Gilmour '56 was vice chairman of the Ford Motor Company in 1994--the corporation's number-two spot--when he decided to retire in order to be able to live his life openly and be a force for change. After the story broke, he called the chairmen of each of the five corporate boards on which he was then serving. "I was told uniformly that it makes no difference," he later recalled in the national gay news biweekly The Advocate. "I loved talking to Frank Popoff, the chairman of Dow Chemical. I said, 'I'm calling about my recent publicity.' And he said, 'This call isn't necessary.'"