Leonard Matlovich Comes Out; Is Dismissed from the Air Force For Being Gay
In early 1974, Air Force Technical Sergeant Leonard Matlovich, a Vietnam veteran and winner of the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star, read an interview in the Air Force Times with gay activist Frank Kameny, who had counseled gays in the military. He met with Kameny and ACLU attorney David Addlestone, spending months formulating a plan. On this day, he hand-delivered a letter to his Langley AFB commanding officer, disclosing he was gay. When his commander asked, “What does this mean?” Matlovich replied, “It means Brown versus the Board of Education” — a reference to the landmark 1954 Supreme Court case outlawing racial segregation in public schools and Matlovich’s belief that homosexuals should also be treated without discrimination. He was dismissed from the Air Force but later awarded a settlement.
In September 1975, Leonard Matlovich was featured on the cover of Time magazine, with the then-bold headline reading “I Am a Homosexual,” and became a heroic symbol for gays and lesbians in the military. He died of complications with AIDS in June 1984.
Visit Leonard Matlovich’s grave at the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, DC, where you can read the moving epitaph he wrote for his gravestone. You can get there by taking the Blue or Orange Metro lines to the Potomac Station in southeast Washington.
The inscription on Leonard Matlovich’s tombstone reads:
“When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.”
Learn more at Leonardmatlovich.com: http://leonardmatlovich.com/
Read: Mike Hippler, Matlovich: The Good Soldier (1989)
Learn more: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kUIt_ZUfkqE
Visit the Congressional Cemetery: http://www.congressionalcemetery.org/
Learn more: Randy Shilts, Conduct Unbecoming: Lesbians and Gays in the U.S. Military (1993)