Dr. Franklin E. Kameny

Dr. Franklin E. Kameny Pioneers Portrait

Dr. Frank Kameny arrived in Washington, DC on September 5, 1956. 
Photo © Patsy Lynch

"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, a veteran of World War II is well-known as the architect and initiator, locally and nationally, of gay civil rights and gay activism and militancy. He remarked several years ago that if he was to be remembered for anything he hoped it would be for creating in 1968 the slogan “Gay is Good”.  In an era when even many homosexuals accepted their abnormality, Kameny’s assertion of the fitness and the affirmative morality of homosexuality was as revolutionary as any of the civil rights campaigns which he launched.  In his historic address to a New York audience (July 22, 1964), Kameny asserted that

“homosexuality is not a sickness, but merely a liking or preference similar to and fully on par with heterosexuality ... I take the stand that not only is homosexuality, whether by mere inclination or by overt act, not immoral, but that homosexual acts engaged in by consenting adults are moral, in a positive and real sense, and are right, good and desirable, both for the individual participants and for the society in which they live.”

From these affirmations sprang new strategies and tactics which led in time to the reversal of the American Psychiatric Association’s classification of homosexuality as a mental disorder, the elimination of homosexuality as a bar to federal employment, decriminalization of homosexuality and homosexual practices, an end to Washington, DC police harassment and entrapment of homosexuals, outreach to clergy and faith communities, and the creation of regional and national organizations for gay rights.

His formation of the Mattachine Society of Washington (MSW) in November 1961 provided a unique platform for building public awareness of homosexual civil rights and pressing the gay rights movement’s demands.  Not incidentally, it also spurred local demands for civil rights and inclusion in the political process.  In 1965, Kameny and MSW began a series of pickets in Washington and other cities that revolutionized the tactics of gay activism.

Kameny’s 1971 campaign for Congress further publicized homosexual civil rights while also demonstrating the burgeoning political significance of homosexual voters.  In his public service on the Human Rights Commission and other roles and in his determinedly public presence, Kameny serves as a model of the homosexual citizen’s natural involvement and contribution to the greater good of society.

Resources on Dr. Kameny: