Gay Rights History at Library of Congress

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As part of an exhibition on constitutional history and civil rights protections, the Library of Congress is, for the first time, displaying documents relating to gay rights history. The documents are from “gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny, who was fired as a government astronomer in 1957 because he was gay. The library is showing Kameny’s 1961 petition to the U.S. Supreme Court, contesting his firing.” Naturally, this petition–the first to the Supreme Court alleging a civil rights violation based on sexual orientation–was denied. The Associated Press article posted on the Washington Post’s web site further notes that “[t]he library also is displaying a 1966 letter from the head of the U.S. Civil Service Commission under President Lyndon B. Johnson, justifying the firing based on the ‘revulsion of other employees.’”

These documents show how far we have come, but also how far we have to go. In describing the inclusion of these documents in the exhibition, the story states:

The library quietly placed the documents on view at the end of April in an exhibit called “Creating the United States,” which traces the evolution of the nation’s founding documents and legal framework.

That they felt the need to “quietly” slip these documents into the exhibition speaks volumes. Now that the word is out, how long will it take the reactionaries in (and out of) Congress to start loudly calling for their removal from the exhibition?

For more on Frank Kameny and his papers, check out the Kameny Papers.

-Tony Infanti

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