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Today in History: ACLU Denied Equality for Gays and Lesbians

Jim Burroway

January 7th, 2008

Today the American Civil Liberties Union is a stalwart champion for equality for the LGBT community. But that wasn’t always the case. On this day in 1957, the ACLU’s Board of directors adopted this statement:

The American Civil Liberties Union is occasionally called upon to defend the civil liberties of homosexuals. It is not within the province of the Union to evaluate the social validity of laws aimed at the suppression or elimination of homosexuals.

That policy statement was published in the March 1957 issue of Civil Liberties: Monthly Publication of the ACLU. Ironically, that statement was placed next to a sidebar marking the 100th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision.

The ACLU would change course some seven years later, thanks largely to the efforts of Washington, D.C. activist Frank Kameny. In November, 1961, in the same month that Kameny helped found the Washington Mattachine Society, he also helped found that city’s chapter of the ACLU. After he persuaded that chapter to support gay rights, the Washington chapter lobbied the national ACLU to rescind their policy. The national ACLU finally acted in 1964, and by the end of the decade ACLU attorneys were on the front lines in defending gays and lesbians in American courts.

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The Story So Far… » Blog Archive » Freedom Of Speech And The Right To Exist
January 14th, 2008 | LINK

[…] In those days, the only voices allowed to publicly speak about homosexuals and homosexuality, were the voices of those who hated us.  If we ourselves spoke up, if we published our stories in any form, we risked arrest, exposure, the loss of our jobs, our homes, and jail.  This is how censorship and the sodomy laws together maintained the status-quo, by silencing dissent.  And back then homosexuals were so universally despised that even the ACLU would not take this case…in fact, it defended the existence of the sodomy laws.  […]

Barbara Louise Jean
March 7th, 2008 | LINK

Frank Kameney rescued Sandi Stancil from a Virginia Mental Health Institution (can’t remember name)sometime in the 1960s. Her parents in Lynchburg, knowing she was living with a Lesbian on a MD farm where they raised purebred poodles, called the FBI and said their daughter was crazy and had a gun. FBI arrested Sandi and took her to mental health place for “obser-vation”. Frank showed up on, I think, the 5th day and requested her release. Sandi was scared so refused to speak to the staff. She hoped her lover would call Frank; that was the hope that kept her sane. I hope Mattachine has a record of this because they saved her sanity. I met Sandi in 1978 and she told the story on lesbian radio in D.C., probably Sophie’s Corner. We were together for 9 years.

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