Kameny presents award to Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit, MPD

Distinguished Service Award to Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit,
Metropolitan Police Department

Presented by Franklin E. Kameny

GLAA 32nd Anniversary Reception
Radisson Barcelo Hotel
Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Because the award that I am presenting this evening is a source of particular satisfaction to me, as it should be to all of you who have been around here in Washington for over 40 years, I specially requested that I be the presenter, and my request was honored by the powers that be at GLAA.

What we have here today is acknowledgement of the conversion of a period of the darkest of night into the welcome dawn of a bright new day. A bit of history of that evolution would put this award into proper perspective, and I will put it briefly.

While, traditionally, everywhere, relations between police departments and gays have never been good, here in Washington that hostility was formalized in 1950. The first Kinsey Report came out in 1948, to horrified denunciations on the floor of the House of Representatives, and demands that the government exclude those "sexual perverts" from civil service employment, that were formalized in the 1953 Eisenhower Executive Order 10450, effectively reversed by the 1995 and 1998 Clinton Orders 12968 and 13087. The infamous Chief Roy Blick of the MPD Morals Division testified to knowledge of some 5000 or so homosexuals in civil service employment here in Washington -- a number he later admitted to having invented out of whole cloth.

In those pre-home-rule days, Congress was our legislature. The House used to reserve one Monday a month, as I recall it, as "District Day" to legislate for us. In 1950 Senator Wherry held a hearing and ordered to MPD to ferret out gay civil service employees, so that their names could be reported to the Civil Service Commission and they could then be fired. And so the Perversion Subsection of the Morals Division was born, leading to countless personal tragedies among gay Federal employees. As I stated, their purpose was to compile lists of gay government employees, to be forwarded to the US Civil Service Commission, so that those people could be fired. And so, while there were relatively few arrests for actual sodomy, they took advantage of the so-called SLIP provision of DC law -- Solicitation for Lewd and Immoral Purposes -- to solicit solicitation for which they then made arrests and sought out the names of all the gay acquaintances of the arrestee to be passed on to the Civil Service Commission.

I first met with Chief Blick about 1958 or '59, when he invited me to a meeting with him after I wrote a letter, as a private citizen and taxpayer, telling him that I would oppose the then-current effort to increase the size of the MPD to 5400 unless they stopped wasting the resources they already had by hounding and harassing harmless homosexuals.

Among the things I learned at that meeting was the MPD would not object to same sex dancing in bars, which I passed on, leading to Washington's first public gay dances at the Chicken Hut at 1720 H Street, NW, a few years later.

A short time later, by which time the Mattachine Society of Washington had been formed, and following a classic raid of a kind common the country over in those days, on a gay bar called the Gayety, on 9th Street, NW near E, in a first show of organized community strength, we demanded and got a meeting with him and laid down the law to him, as to what we would and would not tolerate. There was never again such a bar raid in Washington. And that began the transformation of the MPD.

What amounted to warfare between an increasingly organized and politicized gay community continued through the ensuing decades, in which we gradually eroded the hostility and anti-gay effectiveness of the MPD. Illustrative of that, I note Chief Ramsey's coming to us as a welcome guest at these events currently, whereas just 30 years ago, as reported recently in the Blade, three GAA members, including Deacon Maccubbin, were arrested in Chief Wilson's office as unwelcome interlopers when we went to him and he would not even meet with us there.

A major coup was engineered at our first budget hearing under home rule, early in 1975, when GAA persuaded the City Council to delete the line item providing funds for the Morals Division, decentralizing them and forcing them to move out of Police Headquarters. In one fell swoop, our enemy was defanged.

In the ensuing years, society, culture, and the DC government all changed for the better -- and GAA -- later GLAA -- worked unceasingly to effect needed change here in DC. The OPM, successor to the Civil Service Commission, ceased its gay-bashing. We got rid of the sodomy law, which defanged SLIP. And, finally, we got a really good Police Chief, Chief Charles Ramsey, who, I am informed, could not be here this evening, although he was with us last year.

A few years ago, he formed the Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit, within the MPD. It established itself initially under the aegis of Officers Kelly McMurry and Bredet Williams. It is now in the charge of the indefatigable Sgt. Brett Parson, with the support of Office Joseph Morquecho, and other staff.

Under Sgt. Parson, the GLLU has become unique in the nation, There are other somewhat similar units elsewhere, but they are only public relations efforts. Ours alone has full enforcement powers, and, under a Sgt. Parson who seems to be everywhere, is using those powers effectively to bring about a dramatic improvement in community-police relations; an increase in the mutual respect of gay people and the police; and a focus on previously ignored problems in the community. No longer are the police our enemies: I find it comforting to have the GLLU there. And so the ancient darkness has been dispelled, and we move into a bright new dawn in which, as they should be, the police are our friends and colleagues, not the adversaries of yore.

While the Department, under the stress of the perceived special police needs arising from the Iraq war, saw fit to assign them temporarily elsewhere, now that that war is drawing to a close, they have returned to their full-time GLLU activities.

THEREFORE: It is my deeply satisfying pleasure to present this Distinguished Service Award to the Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit of the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department. In the short time that they have existed, they have truly earned it. I expect great things from them in the future.

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