Last edited: January 01, 2005

Dancing & Kissing

Mattachine Review, March 1962
p. 31
693 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA

REVIEW EDITOR: I have had occasion to peruse, very briefly and very hurriedly, the September (1961) issue of the Mattachine REVIEW. I note that you discuss here, in connection with some San Francisco police actions, the question of gay dancing and kissing. For what it may possibly be worth to you, I thought that you might be interested in the situation in Washington, D.C.

Dancing: In November, 1959, as a result of writing a rather firm letter (as a taxpayer and citizen) to the Chief of Police, protesting the wanton waste of the taxpayers' money and the frivolous misuse of police manpower (in much-publicized short supply) in connection with some of the vice squad's activities, I had a highly informative and interesting 2 1/2 hour chat with the head of the vice squad.

In the course of this conference, I asked him (knowing that there was no prohibition in the District Code) what their feeling was on men dancing with men. His reply was: "We have no objection as long as nothing vulgar takes place." Clarification of the term "vulgar" indicated that he referred to so-called "groping".

Kissing: In March, 1960, I volunteered to appear as a witness for the defense in a case involving a so-called "disorderly house" (a gay club here in the District). In the course of my testimony, I engaged in a somewhat spirited discussion with the judge (of the Municipal Court of DC) which left it quite clear that kissing between men is also perfectly legal.

This was also brought out by the attorney for the defense, who dealt, in addition, with gay dancing. The issue was not raised nor was the assumption of the legality of such dancing and kissing questioned by the prosecution, the judge, or other District officials, at the time, leaving one to conclude that they did not question the legality of such activities.

While people in Washington are probably no less reticent in these matters than those elsewhere in this country (and, I feel, needlessly so, and to their detriment), the fact remains that these acts are clearly and unquestionably NOT illegal, disorderly, or otherwise officially and formally objectionable here.

May I suggest that requests to the courts—brought either by individuals affected directly, or by interested citizens (on any number of possible bases, including waste and misuse of the taxpayers' money)—for injunctions against the appropriate authorities, prohibiting such actions, might also serve you well—whether or not the injunctions were granted.

-Mr. F.E.K., D.C.

This letter was written by Dr. Franklin E. Kameny. He comments:

Oh yes, of course I wrote it. That was the infamous Chief Roy E. Blick of the MPD Morals Division. After I wrote the letter, around Thanksgiving of 1959, he phoned me and told me to come to his office at 10 AM on a particular day the next week. Well, lines of command have to be established, and it must be made clear who is in charge—who is the public servant, and who is the public master—so while that time was actually perfectly agreeable, I told him that I did not wish to come at that time, and told him that I would be there at a different time and day of my choosing, not his—2 PM the next day, or some such. The comment about dancing was verbatim, I quoted it on several occasions, and put it to good use in helping to establish our biweekly, Sunday afternoon gay dances at the Chicken Hut (1720 H St. NW) in the winter of 1961-62 .

The so-called bawdy house (it wasn’t that at all) was the mansion still at the NE corner of 18th (or 19th) and R, NW, which was rented out as a private gay club, for some period of time around then. The police eventually found some excuse for bringing charges, the case went to court before one of the worst of the old-line judges of the day (I’ll know his name if I hear it again), and I testified as a witness for the defense. Both the judge and the prosecutor attempted to make quasi- humorous, gay-bashing jokes of the classic, pre-60s genre, which I rebuffed in no uncertain terms.

All of that was part of the earliest phases of my do-it-yourself, on-the-job legal training, and the commencement of my long, tumultuous love-hate relationship with the MPD—almost entirely hate then (although with its occasional redeeming moments); all love now.

The signature-by-initials was the Mattachine Review's doing, not mine. I was NEVER that closety.

—Frank Kameny, April 22, 2002

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