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Gay Is Good: The Letters of Franklin Kameny

Gay Is Good: The Letters of Franklin Kameny

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Kameny to Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson

On May Day 1963, Vice President Johnson offered a public statement on the need to provide equal federal employment opportunities for all “national origin minority groups”(for example, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, and Native Americans). Even though Johnson focused on national origin, Kameny uses the principles behind Johnson’s pronouncement to call for the end of discrimination against homosexuals in matters of employment and citizenship rights. Part of the driving force behind this letter was a landmark statement (“Discrimination Against the Employment of Homosexuals”), referred to in the following letter, that Kameny had drafted for and presented to the Subcommittee on Equal Employment Opportunities of the D.C. Advisory Committee of the U.S. Civil Services Commission on February 28.

Kameny also refers to another legal challenge to the Civil Service Commission. This particular case was partially rooted in the 1947 arrest of Bruce Scott, an employee of the Department of Labor, on charges of loitering in Lafayette Park, just across the street from the White House. Scott was forced to resign in 1956, when an upgrade of security clearances in his office resulted in the discovery of his 1947 arrest. After several years of underemployment, Scott learned of early efforts to start the Mattachine Society of Washington, quickly became a charter member and officer, and with encouragement and counsel from Kameny, soon reapplied for a position in the federal government, this time with full intention to fight any denial. The government played its role perfectly, denying him employment because of his arrest, and Scott filed suit in April 1963. His attorney, David Carliner, was from the National Capital Area Civil Liberties Union (NCACLU); both Kameny and Scott were also charter members of NCACLU, and Kameny had arranged for Carliner to act as Scott’s counsel.

Also significant is Kameny’s report that the “first picketing of the White House, to protest federal policy and practice toward homosexuals, has just occurred.” There was no major media coverage of this historic event.


May 4, 1963
Dear Mr. Johnson:
We are writing in regard to statements which you made on May 1, 1963, and which were reported in the Washington Post of May 2.

You said that there are other minority groups in the United States beside the Negro, and they often face the same barriers in their quest for jobs and full citizenship rights.

You said: “Just as with Negroes, the capabilities and talents of our other minority citizens stand as a high asset in the ledger book of our national strength. We must see that they are receiving full opportunity to contribute on the basis of individual merit. ...”

“To see that all minority groups receive the same opportunities for employment and advancement in the federal service as are afforded any of our citizens is part of the challenge to our leadership.”

We agree fully and wholeheartedly. However, we represent and speak for a minority, the members of which, when known as such, are excluded from employment — federal as well as private—to a degree never dreamed of by the Negro in his worst nightmares.

We represent the largest minority group in this country, after the Negro — 15,000,000 American citizens — a minority larger than any of those discussed by you in your remarks of May 1.

We represent a minority against whom the federal government is the most persistent, recalcitrant, and flagrant of offenders.

We represent a large minority who are treated as second-class citizens, consistently and as a matter of course, and in favor of whose rights not a single official voice has thus far been raised.

We represent the homosexual minority in this country — some 10% of the citizenry.

We realize that our position may, perhaps, be unorthodox. We are aware, too, of the difficult political implications which this question raises. Nevertheless, we feel that the homosexuals are a minority group, no different, as such, from the Jews, the Negroes, or any others, and deserve the same consideration from their government.

While we have no slightest desire to embarrass anyone, or to create a difficult situation, just for the sake of the embarrassment and the difficulty — in fact, quite to the contrary—we must point out that this problem is not going to vanish if it is ignored. It will become increasingly more evident and more intractable.

The second case challenging federal policies on the employment of homosexuals has just entered the courts. Others are on their way. The first picketing of the White House, to protest federal policy and practice toward homosexuals, has just occurred (with, let us emphasize, no connection with the Mattachine Society of Washington). It is safe to predict that increasing numbers of increasingly vigorous protests against federal disorientation toward homosexuals will occur.

You have seen the unfortunate results which have occurred and are occurring when the South refused to cope constructively with the Negro problem. It is about time that constructive action started to “take this particular bull by the horns.”

If you and others in the administration really mean what you say in regard to equality of opportunity, elimination of prejudice, equality of rights, non-existence of second-class citizenship in this country, etc., then we feel justified in asking that you demonstrate your sincerity by taking constructive action in regard to federal and other discrimination against the homosexual citizen.

We enclose herewith, a statement recently presented by us to the SubCommittee on Equal Employment Opportunities of the D.C. Advisory Committee of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. As American citizens, presenting our viewpoint to our public officials, on a matter of importance to us, to a very large number of other citizens, and to the nation, we respectfully request that you, personally, give it a careful, open-minded, receptive reading.

We will be pleased to discuss these matters with you personally.

We respectfully request a reply, and will look forward to its early receipt.

Thank you.
Sincerely,
Franklin E. Kameny

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