“NEVER AGAIN – NEVER FORGET – 6 JULY 1943-22 JUNE 1988 – A…

“NEVER AGAIN – NEVER FORGET – 6 JULY 1943-22 JUNE 1988 – A GAY VIETNAM VETERAN – WHEN I WAS IN THE MILITARY THEY GAVE ME A MEDAL FOR KILLING TWO MEN AND A DISCHARGE FOR LOVING ONE,” Leonard Matlovich’s headstone, Congressional Cemetery, Washington, D.C. Photo by L. Brown, © @lgbt_history.
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On March 6, 1975, after meeting with Frank Kameny and @aclu_nationwide attorney David Addlestone, who explained they hoped to find a gay service member with an impeccable record to challenge the military’s ban on homosexuals, Technical Sergeant Leonard Matlovich—Vietnam veteran, Bronze Star and Purple Heart recipient, and lecturer on race relations in the Air Force—delivered to his commanding officers a letter explaining that he was homosexual, that his “sexual preferences will in no way interfer[e] with my Air Force duties,” and “therefore request[ing] that those [regulations] relating to the discharge of homosexuals be waived in my case.”
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When one officer asked what the letter meant, Matlovich responded, “it means Brown v. Board of Education.”
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From there, Matlovich became the face of the fight against the military’s ban, and his appearance on the September 8, 1975, issue of Time magazine made him the first named openly gay person on the cover of a U.S. newsmagazine. Describing to Time his experience speaking at Christopher Street Liberation Day, Matlovich said, “I found myself, little nobody me, standing up in front of tens of thousands of gay people. And just two years ago I thought I was the only gay in the world. It was a mixture of joy and sadness. It was just great pride to be an American, to know I’m oppressed but able to stand up there and say so.“
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Unlike many others in his place, Matlovich received an honorable discharge, and a court ultimately ordered his reinstatement; Matlovich, however, took a financial settlement.
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In 1987, Matlovich announced he had contracted HIV; that June, he was among those arrested at the White House while protesting the Reagan administration’s response to AIDS.
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Leonard Matlovich died on June 22, 1988, twenty-nine years ago today; he was forty-four. #NeverAgain #NeverForget #Resist #LeonardMatlovich (at Congressional Cemetery)