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Sgt. Leonard Matlovich

The Legacy Walk

 
 
Sgt. Leonard Matlovich Marker image. Click for full size.
By Andrew Ruppenstein, August 26, 2021
1. Sgt. Leonard Matlovich Marker
Inscription.  
Sgt. Leonard Matlovich
(Gay U.S. Military Pioneer)
(1943 - 1988)


Leonard Matlovich followed in his father's footsteps and volunteered for service in the Air Force. He served three tours of duty in Vietnam where he received a Bronze Star for heroism under fire, and a Purple Heart for being seriously wounded in a land mine explosion. While teaching Air Force race relations courses, Matlovich came to realize that prejudice and discrimination against gays was similar to that against African-Americans, and that he could not abide having to teach about equal opportunity when it did not apply to people like him. This revelation prompted him to reach out to gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny, who had been looking for a test case against the military’s ban on homosexuals serving openly. With Kameny’s support, Matlovich revealed his homosexuality in a carefully worded letter to his commanding officer on March 6, 1975. Despite his exemplary military record, a three-member military panel ruled Matlovich unfit for service, and discharged him in October 1975. After a five-year legal battle, a U.S. District
Sgt. Leonard Matlovich Marker - wide view, looking north on Halsted image. Click for full size.
By Andrew Ruppenstein, August 26, 2021
2. Sgt. Leonard Matlovich Marker - wide view, looking north on Halsted
The Matlovich marker is visible here, sharing a rainbow pylon with the marker for Frank Kameny.
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Court ordered his reinstatement but without ruling against the ban itself. Convinced they would find some other reason to discharge him if he reentered the service, Matlovich accepted the Air Force’s offer of a financial settlement. Matlovich devoted the remainder of his life to championing the fight against anti-gay discrimination and confronting national indifference to the AIDS epidemic. The issue of gays serving openly in the military was brought to the forefront when Matlovich's challenge catapulted him into the role of a national hero for the cause two decades before “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” would become emblematic of the struggle for GLBT equality. Matlovich died from AIDS on June 22, 1988 and was buried with full military honors in the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C. His headstone reads simply "A Gay Vietnam Veteran" and is inscribed with the words he made famous: "When I was in the military they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.”
 
Erected by The Legacy Project.
 
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Civil RightsMilitary. In addition, it is included in the Military Order of the Purple Heart, and the The Legacy Walk 🏳️‍🌈 series lists. A significant historical date for this entry is March 6, 1975.
 
Location. 41° 
Marker inset: Sgt. Matlovich contemplating Time and Sgt. Matlovich image. Click for full size.
3. Marker inset: Sgt. Matlovich contemplating Time and Sgt. Matlovich
...His photograph appeared on the cover of the September 8, 1975, issue of Time magazine, making him a symbol for thousands of gay and lesbian servicemembers and gay people generally. Matlovich was the first named openly gay person to appear on the cover of a U.S. newsmagazine. According to author Randy Shilts, "It marked the first time the young gay movement had made the cover of a major newsweekly. To a movement still struggling for legitimacy, the event was a major turning point."... - Wikipedia
56.698′ N, 87° 38.96′ W. Marker is in Chicago, Illinois, in Cook County. Marker is on North Halsted Street, on the right when traveling north. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 3441 North Halsted Street, Chicago IL 60657, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Barbara Jordan (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Dr. Tom Waddell (about 300 feet away); Ruth Ellis (about 600 feet away); Alvin Ailey (about 600 feet away); Frida Kahlo (about 600 feet away); Fr. Mychal Judge (about 600 feet away); Keith Haring (about 700 feet away); American Veterans for Equal Rights Military Memorial (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Chicago.
 
Related marker. Click here for another marker that is related to this marker.
 
Also see . . .
1. Leonard Matlovich (Wikipedia).
"Technical Sergeant Leonard Phillip Matlovich (July 6, 1943 – June 22, 1988) was an American Vietnam War veteran, race relations instructor, and recipient of the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. He was the first gay service member to purposely out himself to the military to fight their ban on gays, and perhaps the best-known openly gay man in the United States of America in the 1970s next to Harvey Milk. His fight to stay in the United States Air Force after coming out of the closet became a cause célèbre around which
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the gay community rallied. His case resulted in articles in newspapers and magazines throughout the country, numerous television interviews, and a television movie on NBC. His photograph appeared on the cover of the September 8, 1975, issue of Time magazine, making him a symbol for thousands of gay and lesbian servicemembers and gay people generally...."
(Submitted on October 13, 2021.) 

2. TSgt. Leonard Matlovich, USAF (LeonardMatlovich.com).
"Maybe not in my lifetime, but we are going to win in the end."

- TSgt. Leonard Matlovich, September 19th, 1975
(Submitted on October 13, 2021.) 

3. In Memoriam: Leonard Matlovich (YouTube, 18 min.). A memorial video put together by Matlovich's foundation, providing a biography and setting Matlovich's actions within a larger historical context. (Submitted on October 13, 2021.) 
 
Additional keywords. lgbt lgbtq
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on October 13, 2021. It was originally submitted on October 12, 2021, by Andrew Ruppenstein of Sacramento, California. This page has been viewed 51 times since then. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on October 12, 2021, by Andrew Ruppenstein of Sacramento, California.   3. submitted on October 13, 2021, by Andrew Ruppenstein of Sacramento, California.

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Oct. 17, 2021