Last edited: February 14, 2005

House Group Continues Homosexuality Hearing

Washington Post, August 10, 1963
Page C2

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 yesterday’s 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 the questioning.

When Kameny refused to divulge the names of the Society’s membership to the subcommittee, Dowdy charged that it’s 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 sexual expression?"

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 bill’s 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 Society’s 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 Kameny’s 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 I’m 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, 1974.

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