On April 17, 1965, seven men in suits, and three women in dresses, stood on the sidewalk in front of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s big white home to demand equal rights for the LGBT community. Among them was Frank Kameny, a gay Jew who later worked to have the anti-sodomy law repealed in the 1990s.
“I’ve said for many years that San Francisco was looked upon as the center, but D.C. is very much the success story of the gay movement,” he told the Washingtonian in a 2010 interview. Kameny died in 2011.
Also among the demonstrators was Paul Kuntzler, who recently recalled the day’s events for the Washington Blade:
“After walking to the White House, I was astonished to see a large cluster of news photographers standing at the corner of Lafayette Square waiting for the red light to change. After crossing, they began photographing us. I was so unnerved that I kept hiding my face behind my sign.”
Malcolm Lazin, chair of the LGBT 50th Anniversary Celebration, told the Blade that the demonstration, considered the first organized protest for gay rights in history, launched a series of July 4 demonstrations in front of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, held from 1965 through 1969.
Jonathan Zalman is a writer and teacher based in Brooklyn.