On This Day

October 22, 1975

Gay sergeant challenges the Air Force

Air Force Sergeant Leonard Matlovich, a decorated veteran of the Vietnam War, is given a “general” discharge by the air force after publicly declaring his homosexuality. Matlovich, who appeared in his air force uniform on the cover of Time magazine above the headline “I AM A HOMOSEXUAL,” was challenging the ban against homosexuals in the U.S. military.

In 1979, after winning a much-publicized case against the air force, his discharge was upgraded to “honorable.” In 1988, Matlovich died at the age of 44 of complications from AIDS. He was buried with full military honors at the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C. His tombstone reads, “A gay Vietnam Veteran. When I was in the military they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.”

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