Courting Justice: Gay Men and Lesbians v. the Supreme Court

By Joyce Murdoch; Deb Price | Go to book overview

2
"A BURNING SENSE OF INJUSTICE"

SHORTLY BEFORE THE DAWN OF THE SPACE AGE, astronomer Franklin E. Kameny accidentally launched his undeniably brilliant career—in a San Francisco men's room.

Dr. Kameny was in California in August 1956—just two months after receiving his Ph.D. from Harvard University—to deliver a paper at the annual conference of the American Astronomical Society. On August 29, the young scientist took a bus from Berkeley into San Francisco, got off the bus and walked into the depot rest room to relieve himself. The stranger standing at the next urinal made an unsolicited advance, attempting to grope Kameny's penis. "Where I made the mistake is that I responded," Kameny said later. Kameny had responded in kind, by touching the stranger. Two plainclothes officers with the San Francisco police force's "Sex Detail" burst out of a closet where they'd been peeping through ventilation grillwork. Mortified, Kameny was arrested along with the stranger.

Hoping to put the incident behind him quickly, Kameny, then 31, pled guilty the next morning. He was fined $50 and placed on six months' probation. Under California law, it was a simple and routine matter to get such convictions erased. Kameny completed probation, then changed his plea to "not guilty" in order to get his conviction set aside. The original charge was dismissed in March 1957.

Unaware of the federal government's intense efforts to rid itself of homosexuals, Kameny, then a university professor, soon applied for a Civil Service job with the Army Map Service (now known as the Defense Mapping Agency). The job application asked whether he had an

-51-

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Courting Justice: Gay Men and Lesbians v. the Supreme Court
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Introduction "Pay No Attention to That Man behind the Curtain" 1
  • 1 - One Standard of Justice 27
  • 2 - A Burning Sense of Injustice 51
  • 3 - Beefcake on the Menu 65
  • 4 - More Than a Homosexual 89
  • 5 - Afflicted with Homosexuality 103
  • 6 - Nowhere to Hide 135
  • 7 - Nothing to Hide 163
  • 8 - A Marble Storm Cellar 189
  • 9 - Ominous, "Unsettled" Times 213
  • 10 - The Chess Master Makes His Move 237
  • 11 - Adrift in a Sea of Gay Clerks 271
  • 12 - Branded Second-Class Citizens 311
  • 13 - Confirming Hostility 355
  • 14 - Crawling toward Empathy 389
  • 15 - Turning a Major Corner 415
  • 16 - The Constitution 'Neither Knows nor Tolerates Classes among Citizens' 451
  • 17 - Counting to Four 483
  • Conclusion - Seeking the Shortest Path to Equal Justice 517
  • Appendix 531
  • Notes on Sources 536
  • Selected Bibliography 561
  • Index 565
  • About the Authors *
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