1961 January 27

Gay Rights Reach the Supreme Court


Gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny brought the first gay rights case to the Supreme Court on this day, in Kameny v. Bruckner. The Court declined to hear the case, but this was the first step toward consideration of lesbian and gay rights issues by the Court. With a doctorate in astronomy, Kameny worked for the U. S. Army Map Service until 1957, when the service discovered he was gay and fired him.

Kameny went on to become a pioneer activist for gay rights. On April 17, 1965, he led a picket of the White House with the Mattachine Society of Washington. (The Mattachine Society, founded on November 11, 1950, was the first national gay men’s organization in the U.S.) The picket signs were later added to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, in Washington, D.C., as “Treasures of American History.” The street near his home, 17th Street between P and R Streets, NW, is now called Frank Kameny Way and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Kameny’s pioneering work came to fruition fifty years later in the historic Supreme Court decision on lesbian and gay rights, in which the Court struck down a major section of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), in United States v. Windsor, on June 26, 2013.

Read more about Franklin Edward Kameny: http://www.loc.gov/loc/lcib/0611/kameny.html

Watch a documentary on Frank Kameny: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BIGs4t-tHNk

Read about the history of the GLBT revolution: Lillian Faderman, The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle (2015)

Learn more: Joyce Murdoch and Deb Price, Courting Justice: Gay Men and Lesbians v. the Supreme Court (2001)

Visit the GLBT Historical Society and Museum in San Francisco: http://www.glbthistory.org/

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