Before there was Harvey Milk, there was Frank Kameny.
In his remarks, Berry recognized the presence at the event of veteran D.C. gay rights leader Frank Kameny, who is credited with leading a 20-year campaign that resulted in the reversal of the government's discriminatory employment policies toward gays.
Kameny, who holds a doctorate degree in astronomy from Harvard University, became one of the nation's pioneer gay rights advocates after he was fired from his civilian job as a U.S. Army astronomer.
"For those of you who do not know, Dr. Kameny was fired from his federal job in 1957 solely because of his sexual orientation," Berry told the crowd. "At that time, it was not only lawful to fire employees on this basis, it was official government policy."
"In 1975, largely due to Frank's efforts, this injustice was overturned by the U.S. Civil Service Commission," Berry said. "It is the president's and my opinion that employees should only be judged by their abilities to do the job and their performance on the job — and not by any other, irrelevant factor."
"In no small fashion, Dr. Kameny's work and other leaders like him made it possible for me to stand here today," Berry said. "For that, Frank, I personally thank you for your leadership, your passion, and your persistence and express our nation's appreciation for your courage in teaching America to live up to our promise and our potential."