House Group Continues Homosexuality Hearing
Post, August 10, 1963
By John M. Goshko, Staff Reporter
A congressional hearing on a bill to curb the activities of the Mattachine
Society continued yesterday amid a series of digressions that ranged far
afield of the legal implications of the proposed law.
The Society president, Franklin E. Kameny, tried to tell the House District
Subcommittee members debating the bill about the organization' purpose. He
described it as a group attempting to protect homosexuals from discrimination
through public education and persuasion.
And Monroe Freedman, a George Washington University law professor who
testified as representative of the National Capital Area Civil Liberties
Union, attempted to talk about the constitutional aspects of the bill.
Not Much Headway
Except for brief and scattered moments, however, neither managed to make
much headway. Instead, a majority of the subcommittee members chose to spend
most of the day talking about what their chairman, Rep. John Dowdy (D-Tex.)
kept referring to as "perverts."
Dowdy is author of the bill that would strip the Society of its permit to
solicit contributions and would require the District Commissioners to deny
similar permits to any group not deemed beneficial to "the health,
welfare and morals" of the city.
He opened yesterdays hearing by declaring that previously expressed
opposition to the bill had left him "shocked speechless." As the day
wore on, however, he regained his tongue sufficiently to do the major share of
When Kameny refused to divulge the names of the Societys membership to
the subcommittee, Dowdy charged that its a secret organization dedicated to
changing laws that were designed for the public good."
Hope to Change Law
At another point, Kameny said the Society hoped to influence public opinion
into changing the law so that homosexual acts committed in private between
consenting adults would not be regarded as criminal conduct.
When Kameny protested that the issue was not the morality of homosexuality
but the right of the Society to press for acceptance through "the legal
exercise of its freedom of expression," Dowdy broke in to ask:
"What kind of expression are you talking about? Are you talking about
On another occasion, Dowdy broke in again to say that "down in my
country if you call a man a queer or a fairy the least you can
expect is a black eye."
When Kameny replied that Texas also had its homosexuals, Dowdy said:
"Maybe, but I never heard anyone brag about it."
Freedman also spent a considerable part of his time before the subcommittee
answering questions about his personal life.
This was caused by his refusal to tell whether he had ever given legal
advice to homosexuals. He took the position that this was not germane to a
discussion of the bills merits.
"The issue," he contended, "is not whether we agree or
disagree with the aims of the Mattachine Society, but whether we are going to
interfere with their right of free speech.
"The National Capital Area Civil Liberties Union is not concerned with
the success or failure of the Society in pressing its views," he
continued. "It is concerned solely with its freedom of expression."
Freedom stated at seven points during his testimony that he was speaking
only for the civil liberties group and did not represent the Mattachine
Society. Nevertheless, Dowdy and Rep. Frank J. Horton (R-N.Y.) referred to him
as the Societys lawyer.
Two Short Paragraphs
Freedman said that in his view the proposed bill violated the
constitutional ban on legislation that imposes penalties on an individual or
group without benefit of judicial process. Said he:
"The bill is rather remarkable in regard to the amount of
unconstitutionality packed into two short paragraphs."
When Horton pressed him for his views on how the Legislation should be
drafted, Freedman replied: "My recommendation to you, sir, is to tear up
this bill and forget it."
He also defended Kamenys refusal to reveal the names of Society members,
saying that the obviously hostile attitude of Dowdy and other subcommittee
members could easily result in their being subjected to reprisals.
In this regard, Dowdy broke in on Freedman at one point to ask if his
superiors at George Washington University were aquatinted with his views and
his defense of the Society.
"No," Freedman replied after a pause, "but Im sure that
they will be before very much longer."
Additional Information on Rep. John Downey
John Dowdy was elected to ten Congresses serving from September 23, 1952 to
January 3, 1973. On March 31, 1970, he was indicted by a federal grand jury in
Baltimore, Maryland, on charges of conspiracy, perjury, and promoting bribery.
The indictment charged that Dowdy allegedly accepted a $25,000 bribe on
September 22, 1965 to intervene in a federal investigation of Monarch
Construction Company of Silver Spring, Maryland.
Consequently, Dowdy was arraigned on the indictments on April 10, 1970. The
trial began on November 8, 1971, and he was convicted on eight counts on
December 30, 1971. Subsequently, he announced his retirement from Congress on
January 18, 1972 and began serving a six month prison sentence on January 18,
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