On Our Gaydar: Library of Congress

A new display documents an important gay rights pioneer Also: A guide to gay D.C.

You may not immediately think about visiting the Library of Congress to get your gay on, but a new display may inspire you to do just that. For the first time ever the landmark destination is showcasing documents from gay rights hero Frank Kameny (the 85 year old was the first to stage a gay rights protest outside the White House and later fought the American Psychiatric Associations’ definition of homosexuality as a mental illness) as part of a larger exhibit “Creating the United States” that traces the nation’s legal precedents in shaping civil rights.

The materials document Kameny’s experiences as a government astronomer before being fired in the late 1950s for being gay. The Kameny Papers Project donated upwards of 50,000 items to the library in the last five years – some of which is included in the exhibition alongside papers from John Adams, George Washington and many others.

Among the items included in this landmark exhibition is Kameny’s 1961 petition to the U.S. Supreme Court in which he contested his termination. And though he was denied, its believed to be the first time someone petitioned the court over a violation of rights related to sexual orientation. He eventually received an apology in 2009 for the “shameful action” by the Civil Service Commission of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management – 50 years after the fact.

Charles Francis, founder of the Kameny Papers Project, told the Associated Press: “The inclusion is an epic milestone in the telling of gay history because it places gay Americans’ struggle for equality where it belongs – in the story of the Constitution itself.”

And a law professor from Yale – William Eskridge – compared Kameny to Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, but for the gay rights movement.

Not only is it an important exhibition about how far civil rights have come in the U.S. – including LGBT rights – but it’s a great reason to visit the nation’s capital, which according to a recent report, actually boasts the most same-sex households in the U.S.

Planning a visit to Washington D.C. this spring? Check out the oh-so-groovy Kimpton’s Hotel Helix near Dupont Circle. Then nosh at Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse and party at the new Town Danceboutique and Cobalt before grabbing late-night bites at the Duplex Diner.