Douglas E. Moore declared war on the city's "fascist faggots" last year and ran for City Council chairman on a staunchly anti-homosexual platform. Gay rights activists jumped into the camp of Moore's political opponent and enthusiastically helped hand former council member Moore a convincing and embarrassing defeat.
As Moore now tries for a political comeback in the May 1 special council election, he has changed his campaign pitch. He has abandoned references to homosexuals in his speeches, and he has signed on a gay man to be his campaign co-ordinator for one of the city's most important wards.
"We consider the gays to be a significant, but not deciding factor," said Moore campaign strategist David Chatman. "They become a deciding factor when they are perceived to be under attack."
The new strategy of the Moore campaign is the latest acknowledgement in political circles here that the District of Columbia's homosexual community is an important force at the ballot box.
Fifteen years ago, the handful of gay activists here talked politics behind tightly closed doors. Fearful of being "found out" in the intense antihomosexual atmosphere of the time, they used false names. Police vice squad officers infiltrated their meetings.
Today, the District's homosexuals have bounded out of the political closet. Through hard work, their ability to raise campaign contributions, assemble platoons of volunteers and deliver votes, homosexuals have established themselves as a highly respected and eagerly sought-after political constituency.They are now ranked by city politicians with such traditional power blocs as organized labor, the black church and the business community.
"The gays have a lot more going for them than people realize," said council member John A. Wilson (D-Ward 2), a veteran of many Washington political campaigns. "They have money, votes and a sense of persecution. Gay issues to them are like Israel is to Jews. The sense of persecution binds them together."
The political success of Washington's homosexuals has become a national model for homosexuals in other cities. "It's one of the cities that is clearly in the vanguard," said Steve Endean, director of the Gay Rights National Lobby here.
Homosexuals were dependable and integral soldiers in the catch-all coalition of political irregulars that gave Mayor Marion Barry a surprise victory in last year's heated Democratic primary.
With the May 1 special election less that two weeks away, homosexuals have again emerged as a political element that could determine the outcome, especially in the race for council at-large.
"I see it as a very close election, and there are so many groups that have the potential to swing a few hundred votes one way or another. The gays are one of the better organized groups in the city," said Ted Gay, campaign manager for Douglas Moore's principal opponent, interim city council member John Ray. The city's major homosexual groups have endorsed Ray.
Gay activists estimate that there are 70,000 homosexuals in Washington, which is considered by some to be an oasis of openly gay living, and politically on par with such prominently gay places as Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City.
Washington's gay world is a lively one. It is a place where a person can almost spend an entire weekend without leaving the warm atmosphere of friendly gays. There are more than 50 homosexual businesses in the city, including restaurants, grocery stores, discos, theaters and a health clinic.
There are 75 homosexual organizations in the metropolitan area, and a gay newspaper, "The Blade," is published every other week. Its directory lists a homosexual Alcoholics Anonymous group, a coalition of deaf homosexuals, homosexual lawyers, homosexual churches and a group for homosexual parents.
Gay activists consider one reason for the success of their movement here to be the city's overwhelmingly black population and the fact that home rule passed the reins of local government from conservative white southern congressmen to liberal black former activists.
"Black people as a group have been more supportive of gay rights than anyone else. That's why we've made so much progress," said Paul Kuntzler, a 37-year-old advertising manager who is homosexual.
"Blacks have a strong commitment to civil rights. They understand the parallel [between homosexual rights and civil rights], especially in a city where the leadership has come out of the civil rights movement," Kuntzler said.
Ironically, Washington's gay world is a segregated one. There are separate black and white homosexual political organizations. The umbrella-like Gay Activists Alliance is nearly all-white.
Black homosexuals contend they are the targets of discrimination in whiteowned homosexual establishments. The white-dominated gay rights movement has made black civil rights a low priority issue, blacks say.
Because this city is mostly black, most of its homosexuals are probably black. But fewer of Washington's black homosexuals have come out of the closet, partially, activists said, because they feel less job security and partially because their relatives live in Washington.
Many of the new people coming into the District are homosexuals-young (28-40), professional and middle-class. They are people without children, mostly white and mostly male. They include writers, lawyers, architects, accountants and a large number of teachers, gay rights advocates said.
Many homosexuals are concentrated in the areas of Washington feeling the heat of restoration fever-areas like Capitol Hill, Dupont Circle and Adams-Morgan. Entire complexes of town houses in new southwest are virtually saturated with homosexuals, as are many apartment buildings there and in Foggy Bottom.
"I don't think there are very many apartment buildings that are straight," said a chuckling Tom Bastow, president of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the major gay rights political organization in Washington.
Ted Stepney, director of the D.C. Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gay Men, said a considerable number of black homosexuals also live in Ward 4 in the Brightwood and Takoma Park neighborhoods off Georgia Avenue. Many are mid-management level government workers.
"They are very well established in Ward 4," Stepney said. "And, they're very closeted."
Franklin G. Kameny, a government astronomer fired from his federal job for being a homosexual, launched the gay rights movement here and ran for Congress in 1971. Kameny received less than 2 percent of the vote.
In the years since, gay activists have built political bridges and alliances. Organizing in the city's homosexual bars, they were able to register 3,500 new voters for last year's elections and donated $22,000 to political candidates in the city and suburbs.
More than 75 percent of the those working on Barry's campaign telephone banks were homosexuals, as were 60 of the election day poll watchers for Arrington Dixon, who defeated Moore in the Democratic primary for council chairman.In 20 of the 21 precincts where Barry won 50 percent or more of the vote, gay political analysts said, homosexuals make up 20 percent to 33 percent of voters.
Another key part of the homosexuals' political arsenal is an information system that includes mailing lists of the area's homosexual groups and a word-of-mouth communications network.
"A grapevine has always been strong in the gay community," said Kuntzler."It's not new. It's been built up over a generation, as long as there's been a gay community, there's been a grapevine."
Barry, a political outcast among many of the established political interest groups (such as organized labor and the churches), began to court the overlooked homosexual vote in about 1975. He supported its Gay Pride Days and attended rallies in opposition to Anita Bryant's antihomosexual campaign in Dade County, Fla.
Since taking office, Barry has begun to pay the homosexuals back. A gay has been hired as a GS-13 aide to the District's new housing director. Fifty gays served on Barry's transition task forces. The new mayor has asked money to subsidize operation of a privately run, homosexual male veneral disease clinic.
Homosexuals strongly opposed James W. Baldwin's administration of the D.C. Office of Human Rights which enforces the city's homosexual rights law. Less than a month after taking office, Barry removed Baldwin and actively sought advice from gay leaders on criteria for selecting a new director.
In the May 1 election for council at-large the Gerude Stein Democratic Club has endorsed Ray, even though Ray last year endorsed Moore for council chairman. "He's grown," Kuntzler said of Ray.
Richard Maulsby, former president of the Stein Club, added candidly that Ray is also likely to win, and the city's gay rights advocates are practical politicians. (One of Ray's opponents is David G. Harris, who is openly gay but not running on a homosexual-related platform. Harris is considered by many to be a long-shot hopeful. "Besides, he's kind of to the right on other issues," Maulsby said.)
Kuntzler said Moore's new strategy will not change opposition to him from homosexuals. "We're going to try to make him the issue," Kuntzler said. "People can identify with a campaign when an opponent of gay rights is running. It's not just a negative thing that we're trying to do. But, let's face it, that's a very strong motivation for getting people out."
Last night, the Stein club held a $5-per-person fund raiser for Ray and Barry Campbell, the candidate the club has endorsed for the Ward 4 council seat. The affair, billed as a "political wake" for Moore, was held at the Eagle in Exile, a gay disco at 9th and K streets NW. Its purpose, fliers announced, was to "help bury homophobia in D.C."
The black homosexual group has also endorsed Campbell for council, but is supporting planner Hector Rodriguez for the at-large seat. Black gay coalition director Stepney said Ray has never recanted his endorsement of Moore, and that Moore never did anything for homosexuals or blacks.
"The feeling is pretty much solid on Douglas Moore in the black gay community," Stepney said. "He hasn't done anything for black, white, polkadot or gay."
Kuntzler said a goal of the gay community here is to help develop a strong national gay rights' plank for the 1980 Democratic national convention. Homosexuals are running out of political wars to win in the city, he said.
"We're rapidly reaching the end of what government can do for us," Kuntzler said. "You're reaching the point where the last remaining barrier is social attitudes.
"If we could reach the goal of progress nationally that we've reached in Washington, some of the real goals of the gay rights movement would be achieved." CAPTION: MAP, Unshaded area is where gays compose 20 to 33 percent of the votes. By Dave Cook-The Washington Post