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The Mattachine Society of Washington DC

In November 1961, Frank Kameny founded the Mattachine Society of Washington (MSW) with Jack Nichols, a twenty-three year old native Washingtonian.  Over the next decade, MSW created and defined gay activism in Washington, DC and much of the nation by pressing for an end to discrimination against gay men and lesbians on the part of the US Civil Service Commission, the US military, the American Psychiatric Association, and reform of sodomy laws.  Under Kameny and Nichols, Washington DC's gay activists launched campaigns, in the majority of which they were successful, against:

  • denial of security clearances to homosexuals,
  • removal of homosexuals from the military,
  • denial of employment by the federal Civil Service Commission,
  • the criminalization of homosexuality and homosexual practices,
  • entrapment and harassment by police and other civil authorities, and
  • classification of homosexuality as a psychiatric disorder in the American Psychiatric Association's DSM2.

Dr. Kameny's organization also reached out to the religious community through its Committee on Religious Concerns and the Washington AreaCouncil on Religion and the Homosexual, seeking support and understanding from local clergy.  As a public speaker and a personal adviser, Dr. Kameny brought the slogan Gay Is Good (formulated by him in 1968) to the general public.

Dr. Kameny and the local Mattachine Society, taking some inspiration from the African American civil rights struggles, changed the tactics of gay civil rights to an unapologetic direct assertion of civil rights, using public forums, picketing, and civil disobedience to draw attention to the assertion that homosexuals are normal American citizens fully entitled to all the rights of the nation's citizenry.

It is hardly an overstatement to say that Kameny and the Mattachine Society of Washington are directly responsible for most of the civil rights protections that the GLBT community now enjoys.  In 1971, Dr. Kameny again set a precedent by becoming the first openly gay candidate for the US Congress.  The 1971 Kameny for Congress campaign organization reconstituted itself in April 1971 as the Gay Activists Alliance / DC (later the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance), Washington, DC's foremost local lobbying organization for GLBT civil rights and local legislative initiatives.  Dr. Kameny has been an active member of GAA, now GLAA, since its founding.

Kameny's Everlasting Impact
The Mattachine Society of Washington DC