Year of Kameny Controversy

2012 Year in Review

By John Riley
Published on December 20, 2012, 9:30am | Comments

It's been more than a year since local gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny died and yet he has still not been laid in his final resting place, due in large part to ongoing disputes regarding his estate.

Kameny, 86, was cremated after his death on Oct. 11, 2011, and was to be interred in D.C.'s Congressional Cemetery. A memorial service scheduled for March 3 was canceled after Kameny's estate raised questions about some of Kameny's possessions.

Frank Kameny

Frank Kameny

(Photo by Todd Franson/File photo)

In his will, Kameny named Timothy Lamont Clark, a longtime friend of Kameny's who had lived in Kameny's D.C. house, as his sole heir. Kameny bequeathed his ''personal papers'' to the Library of Congress. Other Kameny artifacts, such as protest signs he had used in picketing for LGBT rights, were donated to the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History for an exhibit slated to run from October 2011 through April 2012, after Kameny's death.

Seeking items that the estate claimed had been removed not in accordance with Kameny's will, Clark filed suits against four longtime Kameny friends – Marvin Carter, Charles Francis, Richard J. Rosendall and Bob Witeck – asking them to return personal papers that Clark claimed were ''wrongfully taken'' and along with other personal items.

While Clark later dismissed those suits, another issue in contention was ownership of a plot in Congressional Cemetery intended to house Kameny's ashes. The plot was purchased by Helping Our Brothers and Sisters (HOBS), an organization dedicated to helping marginalized members of the LGBT community, which had also helped provide Kameny with financial assistance in his final years.

Frank Kameny

Frank Kameny

(Photo by File photo)

The Kameny estate argued that the plot, along with a military headstone and a stone gravesite marker reading ''Gay is Good,'' also purchased by HOBS, needed to be transferred to the estate. That transfer appears to be stalled in a paperwork limbo.

Later in the year, Christopher Dyer – an LGBT activist, friend of Kameny, and who served as the head of the Office of GLBT Affairs under Mayor Adrian Fenty – attempted to honor Kameny by using his famous phrase ''Gay is Good'' to start a Facebook page titled ''Gay is Good, Let's Make LGBT Great,'' which was intended to highlight the work of LGBT activists and community members around the District. The estate, however, advised Dyer Oct. 24, that it had trademarked the phrase ''Gay is Good,'' and Dyer agreed to change the name of his effort.

The interment of Kameny's ashes remains on hold as the estate tries to resolve remaining legal disputes around the cemetery plot and other possessions of Kameny's.

Call 202-638-6830 to advertise here in Marketplace