Last edited: February 14, 2005

‘Morality’ Talk Slows Sex Hearing

Washington Post, August 9, 1963
Page C2

By John M. Goshko, Staff Reporter

A Congressional hearing on a bill to hobble the Mattachine Society, a group dedicated to protecting homosexuals from discrimination, bogged down yesterday amid questions of legal constitutionality and public morality.

Most of the House District Subcommittee members debating the bill seemed to be for "morality"—as described by Rep. John Dowdy (D-Texas), the subcommittee chairman and author of the bill. Said he:

"If these people are a charitable organization promoting homosexuality, I’ve grown up in the wrong age."

Law Requires Permit

The object of his frequently expressed indignation is a small group of homosexuals and persons sympathetic to them who have obtained a fund-raising permit under the city’s Charitable Solicitations Act. The law requires issuance of a permit to any group whose representatives answer permit application questions.

Dowdy’s bill would limit issuance of such permits to organizations that the Commissioners determine to be beneficial to "the health, welfare and morals of the District of Columbia." It also would specifically revoke the permit already issued to the Mattachine Society.

Robert F. Kneipp, Assistant Corporation Counsel, told the subcommittee that the Commissioners oppose the bill. His objection was based on these grounds:

  • The number of hearings required by the first part of the bill would impose an "unreasonable" administrative burden and expense on the District Government.
  • The singling out of the Mattachine Society for a specific penalty appears to be unconstitutional in light of Supreme Court rulings against legislative acts that inflict punishment without judicial trial.

Dowdy Cites Other Curbs

These arguments were brushed aside by Dowdy who said: "You contrast that with permitting the solicitation of funds for perversion and immorality. Which is more important to the community"?

Dowdy also noted that Congress has passed laws designed to curb Communist Party and remarked: "As far as I know, all the security risks that have deserted the United States have been homosexuals. Do you place them on a higher plane than Communists"?

He was joined by Rep. Basil L. Whitener, who asked if the Commissioners "want to repeal the section of the Criminal Code dealing with sodomy."

Kneipp replied that "the position of the Commissioners is not to be construed as approving homosexual practices." He also noted that the D.C. Court of Appeals had ruled that homosexual relations may not be criminal acts if committed in privacy between consenting adults.

Will Try To Draft Bill

His only support came from Rep. B. F. Sisk (D-Calif.) who said he would vote against any bill imposing sanctions against a specific group. However, Sisk also won Kneipp’s tentative agreement to try drafting a bill that would give the District power to investigate and revoke charitable solicitation permits.

Also testifying yesterday was the Mattachine Society president, Franklin E. Kameny, an astronomer who was fired from the Defense Department after refusing to answer questions about alleged homosexual affiliations.

Kameny also dodged the subcommittee’s questions about whether he is a homosexual. He was just beginning to read a prepared statement when the hearing was adjourned until today.

The hearing was continued on the following day. The Washington Post continued coverage:

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