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
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