Wednesday, December 10, 2008

DC's Kameny Historic Site

It couldn't be more historic or prominent in LGBT civil rights history: 5020 Cathedral Avenue NW, just a couple of blocks up the hill from MacArthur Boulevard in the Palisades -- is Frank Kameny's home and office.

This is where the self-affirming slogan of the Sixties' gay civil rights campaigns, GAY IS GOOD, was born. This is also where discussions and planning for regional and national gay civil rights organizations went on, where picketing plans were made, where campaigns against civil service and military discrimination were launched, and where the first campaign of an 'out' gay man for Congress was hatched.

Kameny moved there in 1962, from his 4th floor walkup on 18th St NW where he lived on 20 cents a day after being fired from his government job, renting at first and later buying the house. That's it there in the column on the right of this blog page.

The year before he moved to Cathedral Avenue, Kameny and Jack Nichols started the Mattachine society of Washington and completely turned the somewhat reserved world of homophile rights on its head with picketing, in-your-face legal battles, interviews (print, radio, and TV), and taking on the federal government, the psychiatrists' professional organization, and the religious community.

The little neo-colonial house with the patterned blue and white trim was at the center of national and local campaigning for gay civil rights from the early 1960s to the mid-1970s. The upstairs bedroom overlooking the front yard (under Kameny's distinctively patterned shingles) has been Dr. Kameny's office for years. Here he met with members of the local Mattachine Society, with leaders of other gay civil rights groups, and with friends in the movement.

Forty-six years after Kameny moved in and forty-seven years after he stood up to federal employment discrimination and launched a militant campaign for equal rights for homosexuals, the little house at 5020 Cathedral NW, Washington, DC deserves preservation and recognition as a site at the center of a minority's assertion of equality and rights.

Rainbow History has nominated the Kameny home and office as a historic site. The District of Columbia's Historic Preservation Review Board will decide whether to accept that nomination on January 22, 2009. To read the nomination check out the pdf file at

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