Friends Plan Plaque for Gay Castro Vet

Leonard Matlovich, a Vietnam war vet and gay rights pioneer who took up residence in San Francisco’s Castro District in the late 70’s and appeared on the cover of TIME magazine in September 1975 under the headline “I am a Homosexual”, will get a plaque in the Castro on his former residence (at 18th and Castro) thanks to friends, who include frequent Towleroad commenter Michael Bedwell.

Bedwell told the Bay Area Reporter: “I wanted to memorialize him both to pay respect to him and to make newer generations aware of him. Mainstream society has countless examples of these which mark the people who came before, that inspire people, and reinforce people’s identity themselves.”

The TIME story concerned Matlovich’s fight against the ban on gays in the military. According to the BAR: “He had told his commanding officers he was a homosexual but wanted to remain in the service. The Air Force kicked him out, and Matlovich sued the secretary of the Air Force. Matlovich settled out of court and received $160,000. The lawsuit did prompt the military after 1981 to switch from giving gay service members dishonorable discharges to honorable discharges.”

Many of you may have seen Matlovich’s striking headstone, which sits in the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, DC and reads, “When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.”

Said SF Supervisor and supporter Bevan Dufty: “I thought he was impressive. I was like 21 years old and this guy was amazing. He was out and proudly gay. Most gay men were closeted. It was kind of amazing somebody who had this military experience and all these military decorations for courage and service and bravery and he was an openly gay man.”

Matlovich was an activist, a member of the Log Cabin Republicans, and died of AIDS in 1988. HE was 44. Bedwell, who spearheaded the campaign for the plaque, hopes to unveil it in the fall.

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June 13, 2008. Gay Gay Gay, Life, News, Politics, San Francisco.

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