(Pictured – Left to Right: Fathers Dan McCarthy, Bernárd Lynch, John J. McNeill, and Robert Carter marching with Dignity/New York in an early 1980s “Gay” Pride Parade.)
In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association made the decision to delete homosexuality as a diagnostic category from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM). This decision was not based on new scientific evidence, but the result of political pressure from activists in and out of the Association, particularly from the newly formed National Gay Task Force; in 1973, the four founding leaders of the Task Force included Dr. Howard Brown, Dr. Bruce Voeller, Father Robert Carter, and Dr. Frank Kameny.
Dr. Howard Brown was chief health officer of New York City during the Lindsay administration. During his tenure, Brown described his horror when he first toured the Tombs, a notorious city prison: “Almost all the men in the crowded cells were demonstrably effeminate. I could not identify with them.” In 1969, after the Stonewall Riots, Brown said of the protesters: “[they] were like the homosexuals I had seen in the Tombs—most of them obviously poor, most of them the sort of limpwristed, shabby or gaudy gays that send a shiver of dread down the spines of homosexuals who hope to pass as straight. I could not have felt more remote from them.” He added that the composition of the crowds brought to mind “every civil rights struggle I had ever witnessed or participated in.” Brown suffered a heart attack and died in 1975 at age fifty.
Bruce Voeller was a biologist and early AIDS researcher; Voeller pioneered and promoted the use of nonoxynol-9 as a spermicide specifically as a topical virus-transmission preventative method for us in the “gay” male community. In 2001, the World Health Organization (WHO) held a consultation on N-9 with researchers from around the world. These experts came to the following conclusions: “N-9 is not effective at preventing the transmission of HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases (STD). It shouldn’t be used or promoted for disease prevention…Products with N-9 — including condoms, lubes and birth control products — should never be used for anal sex. The rectum is more fragile than the vagina. Even the small amount of N-9 in condoms and lubes can damage the rectum, raising HIV risk.” Voeller died of AIDS in 1994.
Robert Carter was an American Roman Catholic priest and LGBT rights activist; in 1972, he helped to found the New York chapter of DignityUSA; an organization that has since been officially condemned by the Vatican; he led blessing ceremonies for gay couples and saw no contradiction between homosexuality and Christianity; in an unpublished memoir, he wrote: “Since Jesus had table fellowship with social outcasts and sinners, those rejected by the religious establishment of his time, I consider myself to have been most fully a Jesuit, a ‘companion of Jesus,’ when I came out publicly as a gay man, one of the social rejects of my time. It was only by our coming out that society’s negative stereotypes would be overcome and we would gain social acceptance.” Although there were calls for his expulsion from the Jesuits, Carter was never disciplined; he died at his residence at Fordham University in 2010.
Dr. Frank Kameny was an American astronomer who became a “gay” rights activist after he was dismissed from his position in the U.S. Army’s Army Map Service in Washington, D.C. because of his homosexuality. In 1961, Kameny and Jack Nichols, fellow co-founder of the Washington, D.C., branch of the Mattachine Society, launched some of the earliest public protests by gays and lesbians; Nichols, in an early interview, when asked about what “caused” his sexual orientation, said: “…it really doesn’t concern me very much. I never would imagine if I had blond hair that I would worry about what genes or what chromosomes caused my blond hair; or if I had brown eyes. My homosexuality is very much in the same category.” Another member of the Mattachine Society was the infamous Harry Hay; in 1979, Hay co-founded the Radical Fairies, he was also an outspoken supporter of NAMBLA (North American Man/Boy Love Association.) When questioned on his support for NAMBLA in a 1983 New York University forum, Hay remarked: “If the parents and friends of gays are truly friends of gays, they would know from their gay kids that the relationship with an older man is precisely what thirteen-, fourteen-, and fifteen-year-old kids need more than anything else in the world.” According to the NAMBLA publication “A Way Forward,” Kameny spoke at a NAMBLA membership conference in Baltimore in 1981. In 2010, Kameny was seated in the front row of the gathering where President Barack Obama signed the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act. Kameny died the following year at age 86; after his death: Kameny’s house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
John J. McNeill, a Jesuit priest who co-founded Dignity, was silenced in 1977, when the Vatican ordered him not to speak or write on the subject of homosexuality. Yet, after the publication of “On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons,” McNeill publicly condemned the letter in a statement issued to “The New York Times” and “The National Catholic Reporter.” Cardinal Ratzinger responded by ordering him to keep silent about his views, and to again cease his pastoral work with homosexuals; this time, McNeill refused. Under orders from the Vatican, the Jesuits expelled him in 1987. Later, McNeill said “I always knew I was gay. I tried to be closeted, but that didn’t succeed…The message is that God loves gay lovers and approves of them.” He married his long-time partner in 2009.
In his landmark book, “The Church and the Homosexual,” McNeill wrote:
Since most gay people experience their homosexual orientation as a part of creation, if they accept this Church teaching, they must see God as sadistically creating them with an intrinsic orientation to evil. Most gays would prefer to see the Church teaching as wrong, rather than believe God is sadistic.
Dan McCarthy once argued: “I don’t see how the church has any business dictating people’s behavior, the business of the church is to proclaim the Kingdom of God.” He continued: “I’ve been homosexual for 75 years and a priest for about 48 years, it’s no longer a novelty to me.”
A priest with the Holy Ghost Fathers, in 1976, McCarthy began a relationship with his future husband who he legally married in 2011; they met in New York City at a liturgy organized by Dignity.
Bernard Lynch (pictured below) was ordained in 1971 with the Society of African Missions. In 1975, he enrolled at Fordham University in the Master’s program in Psychology; in 1980, he completed his degree in the Doctor of Ministry program at New York Theological Seminary. During that time he agreed to start saying Mass for Dignity in New York City.
In 1998, he and his same-sex partner had their relationship publicly “blessed.” In 2007, they became legally married as the first Catholic priest and partner in a civil partnership. In a 2012 interview, he stated that their 1998 marriage was “solemnly blessed” by an American Cistercian monk. Lynch admitted that he has “many times” given similar blessings to other same-sex marriages. In the same interview, he said this about his religious order: “They have known for a long time that I am a married gay man. Up to now they’ve left me to weave a passage between the cracks…”