WASHINGTON, D.C. — An asteroid has been named for American LGBT rights pioneer Frank Kameny, who was fired during the 1950s by the U.S. Army for being gay. Kameny, who died last year in Washington, D.C., earned a Ph.D. in astronomy at Harvard University, and worked for the U.S. Army Map Service during the early days of the Cold War between the U.S. and Soviet Union.
After being “outed” and fired, Kameny, who was 86 when he died, took his case to the U.S. Supreme Court. (Homosexuality was viewed at the time as a national security risk, as it was claimed that gays in sensitive military and government positions were subject to blackmail, or to being “turned” by a foreign power.)
He later organized the first historic gay rights protests outside the White House and the Pentagon in the 1960s. Astronomer Gary Billings read Kameny’s obituary last year, and submitted a citation to the International Astronomical Union in Paris, and the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Minor Planet Center, hoping to designate “Minor Planet 40463” as “Frankkameny.”
The celestial body—which is located in the asteroid belt, with an orbit between Mars and Jupiter—was first discovered in 1999 using longexposure photography, and is visible through a telescope. The published citation officially naming the asteroid reads, “Frank E. Kameny (1925-2011) trained as a variable star astronomer in the 1950s, but joined the Civil Rights struggle.
His contributions included removing homosexuality from being termed a mental disorder in 1973 and shepherding passage of the District of Columbia marriage equality law in 2009.”