Gays, lesbians, the homophile movement all received a burst of recognition Thursday when the Historic Preservation Review Board voted unanimously to make Franklin Kameny's house Washington DC's first gay site on the DC List of Historic Sites. The Board also decided to raise the nomination to the National Register of Historic Sites at the National Park Service.
Dr. Kameny's transforming role in creating a militant, and successful, campaign for gay civil rights in employment, accommodation, and assembly and reversing legal, medical and clerical opposition to gay rights. The house was also his office and the location where he coined the slogan, "Gay is good."
Members of the Rainbow History Project established a committee to write the nomination in 2003. After working with the Historic Preservation Office, the Rainbow Committee, particularly Mark Meinke, resubmitted the proposal. The DC Preservation Board worked on the project in 2008. The effort begins at the local level with the nomination of the site starting with the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission. ANC3D unanimously approved the nomination of the Kameny site as a DC historic landmark.
The effort gained momentum through the solicitation of the support of others. Rainbow History Project members solicited support from a large number of historians and organizations, including the American Historical Association's Committee on LGBT History, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the Human Rights Campaign.
Mark Meinke, chair of Rainbow History commented that "This designation adds the Kameny home and office to a handful of GLBT sites recognized in the US. Kameny's home now joins Henry Gerber's home in Chicago, the Harvey Milk camera shop and home in San Francisco, and the Stonewall Inn in New York City, amongst a few others, as preserved historic gay community sites."
Former Director of Diversity for the National Trust for Historic Preservation Jeffrey Harris observed that the house on 5020 Cathedral Avenue, NW and other historic designations entail a significant amount of effort. "However, I think someone should also look at the prospect of landmarking Paula Giddings place in Philly, and the home of the lady who married her long time partner in California."
Media coverage of the designation included some gay press and coverage through the Associated Press wire service. The Washington Blade ran a feature. The Washington Post ran a super piece with details about the effort, about Dr. Kameny's life and a nice photograph. The Minnesota Star Tribune, San Francisco Gate and Fresno Bee picked up the AP story.
Intriguingly, news outlets, such as the Washington Business Journal, assigned a reporter to write a small blurb about the designation. The Las Vegas television station, KTNV (ABC) and the city's radio station KDWN, carried the story as well. Viva Las Vegas!
Other information sources featured the story. Topix, and my favorite, Slog.