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“We Throw Down the Gauntlet”

Opening statement
by Dr. Franklin E. Kameny
Counsel to
Benning Wentworth, Applicant
before the U.S. Department of Defense
Industrial Security Clearance Review Office
Federal Plaza
New York City
August 19, 1969

     When this case was originally brought, it was a matter of the allegation of a specific fabric of tissues, lies and perjured testimony by someone other than the applicant, from which certain allegations of susceptibility to blackmail were then incorrectly and illogically deduced and claimed.

     The case has proceeded since then on a somewhat unconventional course, and is now very much more.  As we will show, it has achieved nationwide fame.  Mr. Wentworth has become a national hero. The case has achieved the status of a cause celebre, and of a widely publicized challenge to the de facto denial of security clearances to homosexuals as a class or group.

     Large numbers of heterosexuals, and just plain citizens as such also await the outcome of this case, to see whether the government will do the ethical, moral, decent, logical and sensible thing in keeping with the national interest and sustain Mr. Wentworth’s possession of his clearance, or whether the government will render itself the object of justified odium, scorn, disgust, disdain and ridicule, by denying the clearance.

     Never forget that we are American citizens, with all that is implied by those two words, as well as homosexuals, whatever you may think is implied by that word.   Let it be noted for the record that each of the three of us, Counsel, Assistant Counsel and the Applicant wear two lapel buttons.  One button says, “Equality for Homosexuals”.  The other says, “Gay is Good”, where the word “gay” means homosexuality, in accordance with the definition found in Webster’s New Third International Dictionary.

     The meaning of “Equality for Homosexuals” is obvious enough.  “Gay is Good”, which has been adopted by our national movement as a slogan for the homosexual community, the country over, is intended to serve precisely the same psychologically supportive function as the well known slogan which inspired it:  “Black is Beautiful”.  The word “good” is intended in all of its many senses, not excluding the moral one.

     For us, these two slogans are the underlying theme of this whole case.

     Let us make our position additionally clear.  In the security clearance case of an applicant of name unknown to us---the case was designated as OSD 66-44---the Department did issue a security clearance to a 25 year-old applicant who admitted to having engaged in numerous homosexual acts but who made a passionate averment at the hearing to the effect that he was a reformed man, and that if God had created anything more wonderful than heterosexual intercourse, he had kept it to himself.

     We can only wonder at decisions affecting Constitutionally protected rights which are made on such a basis---about as irrelevant a statement as to eligibility for security clearance as any we have ever heard.  But this is completely consistent with our characterization of our security clearance program as a sexual and social conformity program.

     The Department got its satisfaction out of OSD 66-44, whoever he may be. We hope he sleeps soundly these days, poor man.  OSD 66-44 may have compromised.  He may have knuckled under.  He may have crawled.  He may have groveled.  He may have submitted to Departmental blackmail of the most contemptible kind.

     We will not.  We stand our ground.

     We throw down the gauntlet, clearly, unequivocally and unambiguously.

     We state for the world, as we have stated for the public, we state for the record and, if the Department forces us to carry the case that far, we state for the courts that Mr. Wentworth, being a healthy, unmarried, homosexual male, 35 years old, has lived, and does live a suitable homosexual life, in parallel with the suitable active heterosexual sexual life lived by 75 percent of our healthy, unmarried, heterosexual males holding security clearances; and he intends to continue to do so indefinitely into the future.  And please underline starting with the word “and intends to do so into the future”.  Underline that, please, Mr. Stenographer.

     Let there be no mistake about that.  If need be, Mr. Wentworth will so testify, first hand.  Mr. Wentworth is not “reformed”, and has no intention of becoming so.  We do not consider homosexuality as something to be reformed from, to repent of, or to be rehabilitated from.

     We, including specifically Mr. Wentworth, come into this hearing holding our heads high, proud of our homosexuality, and proud to be homosexuals.

     Mr. Wentworth will get his clearance as the sexually active homosexual that he is and that he will continue to be---Mr. Stenographer, underline the word “will” just used---just as heterosexuals get their clearances as sexually active heterosexuals.

     Sexual abstinence has not been made a condition, in practice, for the issuance of clearances to heterosexuals.   We simply will not allow it to be made so for homosexuals.

     Our security program is intended to determine eligibility to safeguard classified information.  It is not properly---and we will not allow it to become---a popularity contest or a respectability contest.  A man has a right, in this country, to be unpopular.  He has a right to be unrespectable, disreputable, disgraceful, infamous, notorious, if he so wishes, without adverse consequences of any kind whatever from his government.

     Popular opinion is utterly irrelevant to eligibility for security clearances, and we will fight bitterly any effort to make it relevant.   If homosexuals and their homosexuality are unpopular, that is to the discredit of society and the loss is society’s.   But that unpopularity is utterly and completely irrelevant to ability to safeguard classified information, and therefore, to eligibility for security clearance.

      We raise a collateral, but related, point. 

     We intend to tolerate no slights, no disparaging innuendos, no jeers, no jibes or taunts, no disparaging remarks of any kind against homosexuality or against homosexuals.  In a pluralistic society we are entitled not only to our way of life, but also to respect for it by our government as an equal to all other ways of life.

     We have had the Department Counsel class us with the dregs of society, with murderers, with psychopaths. We will tolerate no further such remarks.    We have received, from Examiners, determinations which were assaults upon our very right to exist as the homosexuals that we are, and the right to live our homosexuality continuingly.

     I, personally, placed my life in jeopardy, in frontline combat, under enemy fire, for this country.  Mr. Wentworth served honorably in the Armed Services of this country.  We did not do so in order that our government---or any agent or officer of it---might disparage our people, by which we mean our fellow American homosexuals, or our way of life—to our faces, or behind our backs.  We are fully as entitled to our dignity, and to the respect of our government as the homosexual citizens that we are, as are all other American citizens.

     You and your colleagues would not dare direct disparaging or derisive or derogatory remarks against Jewish or Negro citizens, or members of other minorities appearing before you, nor against their serious efforts, made in good faith, to improve themselves and make better and more productive lives for themselves.  We will not permit such remarks against or about us, or about our efforts to create better lives for homosexuals as homosexuals.

      In the past, we have remained silent when such remarks were made.  We do not intend to continue so.  If any such remarks are made, the proceedings will be halted on the spot and will not continue until the remarks have been retracted and apologized for.  You and your colleagues elsewhere in this Department have been placed on notice.

     We would like to say that as strong as some of our remarks and comments---and as outwardly emotional---as some may be, whether orally or in print, they are extremely carefully, coldly calculated in terms of long-range goals and overall strategy and tactics.

     We are trying to get through to our government officials some conception of what they are doing to us. 

     When, as happens in case after case, a man who has lived for years an honorable, honest, productive, useful life, respected and properly so by those around him, relied upon, given responsibilities and trusts which he has consistently shouldered and met---when such a man is suddenly called irresponsible, untrustworthy, unstable, reckless, poor judgment and the like, has his integrity impugned, all because in his most personal private life he is unconventional---when this happens, he is justifiably outraged, at the very least.   When we ask the Defense Department for the connection between his harmless acts and this assault upon his honor, his reputation, his record, all that he is, we get mealy-mouthed rationalizations and evasions which say nothing.

     We have our sensitivities.  We have our feelings.  We are human beings.  You walk roughshod over those feelings and sensitivities, with hobnailed boots, as if we were somehow less than human---which is, of course, precisely the way all too many of you think of us.

     And so we are very intentionally needling, goading, prodding, in an effort to get through to you and make you realize the wrongs which you are perpetuating upon us, in the hope that you will realize what  you are doing.  You callously destroy people, needlessly, and then forget about them.

     I get the phone calls, the letters, the cries of anguish from people from one end of this country to the other, and have to try to pick up the pieces of the human breakage which you are needlessly causing with your facile, callous, heartless legalisms, perverted from their proper use.

     We stated in our “Notice of Appeal” in another case:  “While these remarks are intended without malice, it should be made clear that even were they so intended, nothing—underline that word “nothing”, Mr. Stenographer—“literally and absolutely  NOTHING, which we could conceivably set down upon paper could possibly give as much offense to others as we feel as a result of the Examiner’s determination; and as the American homosexual community, of which we are members, feels in response to the philosophies enunciated in that determination and in response to the Defense Department’s policies toward homosexual American citizens.”

     As any good teacher knows, dramatic, novel methods with personal impact, are often far superior as teaching techniques to bland, cold, factual presentations.  If we can manage to get through to you people by our use of language stronger than is customary in the course of usual lawyer’s amenities, then our purpose and the interests of a large number of good American citizens, and therefore the interests of our nation, will have been served.

     The so-called invective will continue and will increase, both in quantity and in quality, until the Department convinces us that it does indeed respect our sensibilities and sensitivities as American citizens and our dignity as human beings.


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