1971 March 23

Frank Kameny First Openly Gay Candidate for Congress


Gay rights leader Frank Kameny became the first openly gay person to run for Congress, when he ran for the seat as the non-voting delegate from Washington, D.C. He came in fourth out of six candidates in the special election held on this day. Congress had recently created the non-voting position as part of the developing home rule movement for the District of Columbia.

Earlier in his career, Kameny brought the first gay rights case to reach the Supreme Court on January 27, 1961, in a challenge to his firing from the U.S. Army Map Service because he was gay.

Frank Kameny: “If society and I differ on something, I’m willing to give the matter a second look. If we still differ, then I am right and society is wrong; and society can go its way as long as it doesn’t get in my way. But if it does, there’s going to be a fight. And I’m not going to be the one who backs down. That has been an underlying premise of the conduct of my life.” Quoted in The Gay Crusaders, by Kay Tobin and Randy Wicker, 1972.

Hear Frank Kameny on the birth of the lesbian/gay rights movement: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WFvD4QubM84

Learn more: Donald P. Haider-Markel,  Out and Running: Gay and Lesbian Candidates, Elections, and Policy Representation  (2010)

Read: Dudley Clendinen and Adam Nagourney, Out for Good: The Struggle to Build a Gay Rights Movement in America (1999)

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