Wednesday’s Google Doodle is honoring American astronomer and gay rights activist Frank Kameny, the most significant figure of the LGBTQ movement.
Kameny was at the forefront of a movement to change people’s perception of homosexuality even before the Stonewall Riots, also called the Stonewall Uprising, which took place in 1969.
Born on May 21, 1925, in Queens, New York, Kameny was a bright student and enrolled at Queens College at the age of 16 to study physics. However, he was drafted by the US Army during World War II, which interrupted his studies.
After serving in Europe throughout the war, he returned to Queens College, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in physics before moving on to Harvard University, where he earned a master’s degree and a doctorate in astronomy, according to CNET.
In 1957, Kameny went on to take a job at the US Army Map Service but was fired after his supervisors learned he was gay. He was fired under Executive Order 10450, which was signed by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1953.
At the time, sexual perversion was considered a national security risk so thousands of federal employees had to lose their jobs. However, Kameny went on to challenge his dismissal through legal proceedings before the Supreme Court refused to hear his case in 1961, per CNET.
In the 1990s, in an interview, Kameny told Eric Marcus, “The government then put its disqualification of gays under the rubric of immoral conduct. Morality is a matter of personal opinion and individual belief on which any American citizen may hold any view he wishes and upon which the government has no power or authority to have any view at all.”
“It had to be said and nobody else had ever said it that I know of in any kind of a formal court pleading,” he added.
Kameny also urged the American Psychiatric Association to stop considering homosexuality a mental health disorder, which the association finally did in 1973.
In 2009, he received a formal apology from the federal government. And a year later, a portion of a Washington, DC, street was renamed Frank Kameny Way in his honor.
Kameny was found dead in his Washington home on October 11, 2011. The medical examiner determined the cause of death to be natural causes due to arteriosclerotic cardiovascular disease. He suffered from heart disease in his last years but took full part in public appearances to support the LGBTQ community. His last appearance was in an LGBT group in Washington, D.C. on September 30, 2011.