Beginning in 1962 and continuing for nearly 40 years, this ordinary brick Colonial Revival house served as the home and office of Dr. Franklin E. Kameny, one of the leading lights of the gay rights movement, and considered the father of gay activism. Trained as an astronomer, Kameny transformed his personal struggle into a cultural struggle that radicalized the gay rights movement and seized the rhetorical high ground.
After being discharged from the Army Map Service in 1957 for his homosexuality, Kameny waged a four-year legal fight against the notion that sexual orientation would make one unfit or unsuitable for federal service. Although the Supreme Court declined to hear his case, it was the first time that an equal rights claim had been made on the basis of sexual orientation. In 1961, Kameny co-founded the Mattachine Society of Washington, committed to achieving an equal legal and social footing for homosexuals. The organization focused on federal employment discrimination, assisting and counseling those who had been fired or disadvantaged while at the same time crafting the legal basis for overturning federal discrimination on a national level.
During the 1970s, the organization compelled government agencies to liberalize their policies by forcing public scrutiny of hiring and security clearance decisions. Kameny also recognized that changing society’s image of homosexuals and dispelling common perceptions would help open the door to legal equality. Among the obstacles was the stigma of the American Psychiatric Association’s definition of homosexuality as a mental illness. After eight years of protest, Kameny and his allies succeeded in persuading the APA to remove homosexuality from its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders. The Mattachine Society also ran a program of outreach to churches.
Disdaining any apology for his homosexuality, Kameny coined the slogan "Gay is Good," announcing that society would have to accept homosexuals on their own terms. Kameny was also prominent in local public service. In 1971, when the District of Columbia gained a non-voting delegate to the House of Representatives, he became the first openly gay person to run for Congress. In 1975, he became the District’s first openly gay official when appointed to the Human Rights Commission.
DC Inventory: February 26, 2009
National Register: November 2, 2011