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Politics

Frank Kameny for Congress

"I am a homosexual American citizen determined to move into the mainstream of society  
from the backwaters to which I have been relegated.  Homosexuals have been shoved  
around for time immemorial.  We are fed up with it.  We are starting to shove back and  
we're going to keep shoving back until we are guaranteed our rights." 

-- Dr. Franklin E. Kameny, announcing his campaign

In losing the election, Kameny's campaigners, and those who voted with them, won a piece of the local political pie.  Election results demonstrated the no longer latent strength of a gay voting bloc in the District of Columbia.  Moreover, by just campaigning, Kameny and his supporters had changed forever the consciousness of the city and much of the nation beyond.

Within the local gay and lesbian community, two of the immediate consequences were Lilli Vincenz's creation of the Gay Women's Open House (in response to a flood of phone calls during the campaign) in February and the founding of Washington, DC's Gay Activists Alliance, a new type of gay civil rights organization, four weeks after the election.  A year later, the gay vote was a factor in the first elections to the District's school board and 1971's lesson was underlined.  The city's gay community was a player in local politics.

Because the city's primary had already passed, the first task was to get Dr. Kameny on the March ballot as an independent candidate for Congress.  The first challenge for the campaign committee, most of them veterans of the Mattachine Society of Washington, was to get enough signatures (5,000 registered voters) to get on the ballot.  The deadline was Tuesday February 23, 1971.

Having accomplished certification for the ballot, the campaign then had a month to wage a vigorous campaign to get Dr. Kameny before the voters and to maximize the media attention and public contact that the campaign offered.  Dr. Kameny characterized the period as one where "I became an instant expert on everything from appointing judges to trash collection to paving streets to taxes.  You name it.  I had to be able to pontificate on it intelligently and write position papers galore.  But it went off very very well and we were complimented on the character of the campaign." [Rainbow History Project tape].

The campaign's impact was far-reaching.  While Kameny's loss of the election was expected, some of the consequences were not.  When journalist Alan Hoffard suggested to his friend Paul Kuntzler that the gay community run Kameny for election to the city's first delegate position in Congress, the intention was to capitalize on the publicity the campaign would bring.  However, the campaign and the strength of voter support in key city precincts unveiled to the public and to local politicians the presence of an unrecognized block of voters - the gay community, a fact that would considerably influence elections and local Democratic Party politics for years afterwards. 
  

The Gay Blade, the only media outlet for Washington's gay population, devoted two thirds of its February 1971 lead page (in a three sheet mimeographed monthly) to announcing the campaign and setting out the campaign's goals:

"A campaign has begun to run Mattachine president Frank Kameny for the post of non-voting delegate from DC to the US House of Representatives.

Prime reason for the campaign is to use the free media time and space given to candidates as a means of reaching both the public and the politicians with the "Gay is Good" message and philosophy.

It is also hoped that a good Voter turnout for Kameny (a couple of thousand votes) will be an indication of gay community strength, and will influence local (and national) politicians and public officials.

The idea for the Kameny campaign came after candidates for the democratic primary were questioned about what they would do for gays.  It was felt that it would be better to run a gay candidate than a straight one who would only say that he'd look after homosexual interests if we supported him.  Kameny doesn't expect to win."

Frank Kameny

Frank Kameny

Almost single-handedly, he (Kameny) formed and popularized the ideological foundations of the gay rights movement in the 1960's:  that homosexuals constituted 10 percent of the population, that they were not mentally ill, that they didn't need to be spoken for by medical experts, and that they had a right not to be discriminated against.” After completing this research project, I truly have discovered that Frank Kameny started a shock wave of LGBT activism that affected nearly every portion of the present day LGBT movement. Frank Kameny was working in Washington DC as an astronomer for the United States Army Map Service when he was arrested for a traditional late night stroll down Pennsylvania Avenue. His supervisors questioned him, and he refused to give any information about his sexual orientation. Kameny was investigated, and upon discovering that he was gay, the Civil Service Commission fired him in 1957. In January of 1958, he received notice that he had been barred from holding any future employment with the United States Government. 

 

Letter to Senator Sam J. Ervin, Chairman, U.S. Senate Subcomitte on Constitutional Rights, Committee on the Judiciary

After Kameny got fired from his government job, he took it upon himself to defend other LGBT people who had been affected by the Lavender Scare. He fought the government actively through writing letters, defending people in their court cases, and attempting to build connections with congressman and government officials. 

Invitation for Kameny to Testify

Kameny worked actively on the case of other people who had been fired from their government jobs, after having his own experience with the Lavender Scare. This letter called Kameny in to testify on the case of Benning Wentworth. 

Department on State Letter

President Einsenhower issued Excutive Order 10450 in order to have legal standing for preventing gays in the government job sector. He claimed that in order to preserve moral conduct of the country, homosexuals could not be in the government job sector, because they posed a threat to national security

After Frank Kameny was fired from his government job, he appealed his case to the Supreme Court, after losing his case two times previously, and lost. He wrote a 64 page, unapologetic, well written, rational writ of certiorari. This letter is a perfect example of the way that Kameny fought for his rights. He was unapologetic about his identity, and explained his reasoning for wanting to be back in the government job sector.