Kameny’s Efforts Continue

Although the Mattachine Society of Washington was slowly wrapping up its activities, Frank Kameny was not done with his. In 1971, he was convinced by local friends and colleagues to run for Washington DC’s non-voting seat in Congress, the first ever campaign for national office by an openly gay candidate. Although first mocked by the press—an initial report announced “a new candidate swished into the political arena yesterday”—Kameny won over much of the media simply by running a serious, well-organized campaign. Although he did not win, he finished in a respectable 4th place on a crowded ballot and ultimately garnered good reviews from the Washington Post, among other observers.

At the conclusion of the Kameny for Congress election cycle, some of his campaign workers, including campaign manager Paul Kuntzler, decided to maintain momentum by forming a DC version of the Gay Activists Alliance (which had originally been founded in New York City). Much more of a single issue organization and much more structured than Gay Liberation Front, the Gay Activists Alliance held candidate forums, convinced DC in 1973 to be among the first cities in the country to adopt a sexuality-inclusive human rights law (Title 34), and worked on projects ranging from police relations to health issues. This group continues its work today as the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, the oldest continuously operating gay rights organization in the U.S. 

 

Frank Kameny's birthday party in Los Angeles

In 1998, Kameny celebrated his 73rd birthday in Los Angeles. Photograph contributed by Jack Nichols.

And Frank Kameny? He never went away. He lived long enough to see DC do away with its sodomy law. He lived long enough to see the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and anti-gay military discrimination struck down. He lived long enough to see his papers displayed at the Library of Congress. And he lived long enough to receive an apology from the United States government. In 2009, 52 years after Frank Kameny was dismissed from the Army Map Service, the head of the Civil Service Commission formally apologized to him for the “shameful action” of firing him for no reason but his sexual orientation. On October 11, 2011, Kameny passed away at the age of 86.