Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Preferred Name

Peter Bonds

Date of Award

Spring 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Department of History


Evan Friss

Emily Westkaemper

Christian Davis


The first organized demonstration on behalf of gay rights in the United States occurred in front of the White House on April 16, 1965. Six years later, Dr. Franklin E. Kameny became the first openly gay American to run for a seat in the United States Congress when he launched his campaign to become Washington’s delegate to the House of Representatives in February 1971. The following year, Washington’s school board voted to include sexual orientation alongside gender and race as a protected category in its non-discrimination employment policy. This victory for gay Washingtonians was expanded on in 1973, when Washington’s city council passed a monumental piece of legislation, called Title 34, which made it illegal to discriminate against gay men, lesbians, and transgender people in the areas of employment, housing, education, and public accommodations. Washington was the first major city in the United States to enact such a law. Far too often, New York and San Francisco are believed to be the epicenters of the gay rights movement in the United States. The Stonewall Riots, which occurred in June 1969 in Greenwich Village, are often credited with launching a gay rights movement in America. This thesis explores how gay Washingtonians engaged with the political process both conventionally and unconventionally during the years before and after the Stonewall Riots. Although it was home to some of the earliest and most important events in the gay rights movement in America, Washington, DC is under-researched and under-represented in the historiography of gay rights in the United States. This thesis aims to help elevate Washington’s place within that history, and to prove that a gay rights movement was well underway in the nation’s capital long before the first bricks and bottles were thrown in front of the Stonewall Inn.