On This Gay Day: A court ruled Leonard Matlovich dismissal was okay

On September 8th, in 1975, US airman and Vietnam veteran Leonard Matlovich became the first serving member of the US military to purposefully ‘out’ himself. Matlovich also became the first openly gay person to appear on the cover of a major weekly magazine in the USA.

The groundbreaking issue of TIME magazine revealed Matlovich as a serving member of the US forces who was declaring that he was gay. It made the serviceman one of the most well know gay people in America, next to politician Harvey Milk.

Matlovich worked in the Airforce teaching incoming servicemen that racism was not acceptable within the forces, and he saw a lot of parallels between racism and the discrimination of gay people.

Matlovich officially informed his superiors of his sexuality to create a test case about discrimination within the military. Matlovich was honourably discharged from the service.

On July 16th 1976 the decision to discharge Matlovich was upheld in a civilian court by Federal District Judge Gerhard Gesell.

Commenting on his discharge Matlovich said,”Maybe not in my lifetime, but we are going to win in the end.”

It would be another 36 years before the USA military removed all forms of discrimination from their rule book.

He went on to volunteer on many gay rights campaigns and following his diagnosis of contracting HIV, he became a vocal campaigner for the rights of positive people.

He passed away, aged just 45 in  March 1988. He was buried at the Congressional Cemetery and his tombstone states the famous quote;

“When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.”

Find out more about Leonard Matlovich at his official website.

OIP Staff


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