Fifty years ago this week, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Frank Kameny’s 1961 petition for a review of his U.S. Army Map Service dismissal for being a homosexual.
Eight years before the Stonewall uprising in New York, Kameny’s historic petition laid out the argument not only for the reversal of his dismissal but also for full civil equality for homosexual Americans, rooted in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.
Kameny wrote to the Court: “Not only are the government’s present policies on homosexuality irrational in themselves, but they are unreasonable in that they are grossly inconsistent with the fundamental precepts upon which this government is based …. we may commence with the Declaration of Independence, and its affirmation, as an “inalienable right” that of the “pursuit of happiness”.
Kameny’s petition, believed the first gay-related case ever brought to the Court is now available as an eBook entitled Petition Denied. Revolution Begun. The 50th Anniversary of Kameny at the Court.
Kameny’s petition to the Supreme Court is not legalese, except for two words. It is signed “Franklin E. Kameny, Pro Se – which, as editor Charles Francis points out, means “for one’s self, without attorney”.
In his petition to the Supreme Court, he described the US government’s policies as applied to homosexuals as “a stench in the nostrils of decent people, an offense against morality, an abandonment of reason, an affront to human dignity, an improper restraint upon proper freedom and liberty, a disgrace to any civilized society, and a violation of all that this nation stands for.”
Strong stuff for 50 years ago. Today, Kameny reflects: “I must say after 50 years, it is still reading quite well!”
The “cert petition” was denied and, as is the norm, no reason was given.
Frank Kameny’s then sent his petition, with a covering letter to President Kennedy. William Lambert, Kennedy’s Assistant Attorney General replied, suggesting Kameny take the petition to the US Congress.
Yes, the petition was again denied. But with Jack Nichols, he founded the Mattachine Society of Washington DC.
Petition Denied. Revolution Begun, edited by Kameny Papers Project founder Charles Francis, may be immediately purchased and dowloaded for $9.95 in the form of a Kindle eBook from Amazon USA
Alternatively, it can be downloaded instantly from Amazon UK for £7.12 (including VAT)
All proceeds from sales of the Kindle book will benefit Frank Kameny.