Legal Struggles

Frank Kameny and Mattachine provided referrals and support to those who challenged the government legally, whether they were servicemen dishonorably discharged from the armed forces, government employees expelled from their jobs, or gay men who had lost their security clearances.

One Mattachine Society of Washington member, Bruce Scott, filed an initial suit against the government, Scott v. Macy, in April 1963; in 1965, the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in his favor, claiming that the government’s accusations against Scott, charging him with “homosexual conduct” without giving a shred of evidence, were illegally vague. Judge David Bazelon ruled that the government had to specify and give details about what conduct it considered to be immoral. This ruling implied that not all homosexual conduct was necessarily grounds for dismissal of federal employment.

In the 1969 case Norton v. Macy, the same Judge Bazelon confirmed that the government must provide a rational connection between an employee’s conduct outside of work hours and his unsuitability for employment. In other words, Clifford Norton’s having cruised another man in Lafayette Park did not have any bearing on his job at NASA, and the government could not arbitrarily fire him.

The Civil Service Commission’s anti-gay employment policies finally dragged to a close. In December 1973, the commission began to revise its policies, and Frank Kameny received a phone call from the Commission’s lawyers on July 3, 1975, informing him that as of that day, no federal employee could any longer be fired solely on the basis of homosexuality.

Similarly, Kameny’s long-time advocacy on the part of several employees of Defense Department contractors, including Mattachine Society of Washington member Otto Ulrich, resulted in ACLU lawsuits that attempted to regain the men their lost security clearances. In September 1971, a District court judge ruled that security clearance evaluators were not allowed to ask undue questions about employees’ sex lives and that employees could not be penalized for refusing to answer such “probing personal questions.” A government appeal was denied, and Ulrich and others regained their clearances.