November 2, 2011 at 3:09 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Nat’l Park Service lists Kameny house as ‘historic place’

The National Park Service announced on Wednesday that it has listed the home of gay rights leader Frank Kameny in the National Register of Historic Places in recognition of the “historic significance” of Kameny’s work on behalf of LGBT equality.

“For years, Dr. Kameny’s residence at 5020 Cathedral Avenue, N.W., in Washington, D.C., served as a meeting place, archives, informal counseling center, headquarters of the Mattachine Society, and a safe haven for visiting gay and lesbian activists,” the Park Service said in a Nov. 2 statement. “It was here that Dr. Franklin E. Kameny developed the civil rights strategies and tactics that have come to define the modern gay rights movement.”

The Park Service’s decision to place the Kameny house on its National Register of Historic Places comes three years after the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board voted unanimously to designate the house as an historic landmark.

“Dr. Kameny led a newly militant activism in the fledgling gay civil rights of the 1960s,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “He was a landmark figure in articulating and achieving gay civil rights in federal employment and security clearance cases, and in reversing the medical community’s view on homosexuality as a mental disorder.”

In a Nov. 2 statement, the National Park Service said, “Kameny’s efforts in the civil rights movement, modeled in part on African American civil rights strategies and tactics, significantly altered the rights, perceptions, and role of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered people in American society.”

Park Service spokesperson David Barna said placement of Kameny’s house on the National Register of Historic Places makes it eligible for federal preservation grants as well as tax deductions to help cover costs for maintaining the house for preservation purposes. He said the listing also would make it more difficult to radically change the appearance of the house or raze it by a future owner wishing to build a new structure on the property.

A memorial service in which Kameny will lie-in-state is scheduled for Thursday.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

  • I was last there in March when I took Frank to a GetEQUAL fundraiser. As I walked him to his door afterward, I wondered if I’d ever see him again, and, sadly, got my answer October 11th. This is great—now WHERE’s that Presidential Medal of Freedom??!!

  • Frank Kameny’s place in the annals of American history cannot be underestimated. While younger generations of LGBTs might not realize it, Kameny was truly the founding father of the cause of advancing the civil and constitutional rights of lesbian and gay Americans. Indeed, it can rightfully be said that Frank Kameny laid the groundwork for later LGBT activists, including Harry Hay, John Burnside, Harvey Milk, and — of course — the patrons of the Stonewall Inn who had had enough of police harassment.

    Designating Kaneny’s home as a national historic landmark is a fitting tribute to the man and to the movement he started.

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