Tag Archives: Lavender Scare

Gay History - April 27, 1953: President Dwight Eisenhower Signs Executive Order Banning Homosexuals From Working for the Federal Government

Gay History – April 27, 1953: President Eisenhower Signs Executive Order Banning Homosexuals From Working for the Federal Government

On this day April 27, 1953, President Dwight Eisenhower signs Executive Order 10450, banning anyone  identified as threats to national security including those with criminal records, alcoholics, and “sex perverts”–to be excluded or terminated from federal employment.. The Order lists homosexuals as security risks, along with alcoholics and neurotics.

This was one of Eisenhower’s first official duties after being elected.

This Executive Order was tied to the McCarthy era Red Scare, the search for Communists who had supposedly infiltrated American society. The purging of homosexuals and lesbians from the federal government became known as the Lavender Scare, thousands and thousands of people were fired from their jobs simply because of their sexual orientation

The rational was that “perverts” — the word The New York Times freely used as a synonym for homosexuals — were a threat to the security of the country because their immoral lifestyle left them susceptible to blackmail by foreign agents, who would presumably induce them to reveal sensitive government information in exchange for avoiding exposure.

The anti-gay frenzy ignited by the government did far more than just deprive these men and women of jobs; it drove many to suicide and cemented homophobic stereotypes that persisted for decades in the American consciousness

Ironically on the same date April 27, nineteen years later in 1972 testifying before Congress, FBI Director and notorious closet case J. Edgar Hoover assured the House Appropriations Committee that there are no gay activists in the Bureau, saying “We don’t allow any types of activists in the FBI, gay or otherwise. I ask not for average personnel but for those above average in character, education, and personal appearance.”

We must all remain diligent.

If it happened once. It could happen again.

Gay History – July 2, 1953: U.S. State Department Fires 381 Gay and Lesbian Employees

In the early 1950’s, the entire country was in the grips of the Red Scare as Wisconsin Republican Sen. Joseph McCarthy was conducting his witch hunts. One of his main platforms would be the Senate’s Subcommittee on the Investigation of Loyalty of State Department Employees. While McCarthy’s main targets were imaginary Communists in the State Department, gay employees were also seen as “subversives” in need of rooting out.

Both homosexuals and Communist Party members were seen as subversive elements in American society who all shared the same ideals of antitheism, rejection of the middle-class morality, and lack of conformity. In the eyes of the Government  they were seen asscheming and manipulative and, most importantly, would put their own agendas above others in the eyes of the general population.McCarthy also associated homosexuality and communism as “threats to the ‘American way of life’.” Homosexuality was directly linked to security concerns, and more government employees were dismissed because of their homosexual sexual orientation than because they were left-leaning or communist. George Chauncey noted that, “The specter of the invisible homosexual, like that of the invisible communist, haunted Cold War America,” and homosexuality (and by implication homosexuals themselves) were constantly referred to not only as a disease, but also as an invasion, like the perceived danger of communism and subversives

Among the more high-profile targets was Samuel Reber, a twenty-seven year career diplomat who announced his retirement in May of 1953 after McCarthy charged that he was a security risk — which was a barely-concealed code for homosexual. By then, President Dwight D. Eisenhower had already responded to McCarthy’s witch hunt by signing an executive order mandated the firing of all federal employees who were deemed guilty of “sexual perversion,” whether proven or not. Eisenhower also announced a re-organization of the State Department. Rep. Charles B Brownson, an Indiana Republican with his own lesser-known witch hunt underway in the House Government Operations Committee, asked the State Department for a progress report in rooting out homosexuals.

On July 2, 1953, the State Department’s chief security officer R.W. Scott McLeod revealed that 351 homosexuals and 150 other “security risks” had been fired between 1950 and 1953.

Bully, Coward, Victim: Roy Cohn

Donald Trump Biopic To Feature Evil Self Loathing Vile Mentor The Late Roy Cohn

Via the Hollywood Reporter:

Donald Trump is getting the big-screen treatment in a film called The Apprentice that will dramatize his rise to power, focusing on his early influences like attorney Roy Cohn.

Gabriel Sherman, special correspondent to Vanity Fair, who also authored a book about late Fox News founder Roger Ailes, The Loudest Voice in the Room, has been tapped to write the original screenplay for Amy Baer, who is producing the pic through her Gidden Media.

“As a journalist, I’ve reported on Donald Trump for more than 15 years,” Sherman said Wednesday in a statement. “I’ve long been fascinated by his origin story as a young builder coming up in the gritty world of 1970s and ’80s New York. This formative period tells us so much about the man who today occupies the Oval Office.”

For those of you who do not know or are too young to know there could be no more of a villainous and despicable man in all of gay history as the monster named Roy Cohn.

In 1952, Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) appointed him as chief counsel to the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations on the recommendation of FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover, where Cohn became known for his aggressive questioning of “suspected” Communists ruining hundreds of lives and sending Ethel and Julius Rosenberg to the electric chair.

Cohn preferred not to hold hearings in open forums, which went well with McCarthy’s preference for holding “executive sessions” and “off-the-record” sessions away from the Capitol in order to minimize public scrutiny and to question witnesses with relative impunity. Cohn was given free rein in pursuit of many investigations, with McCarthy joining in only for the more publicized sessions.

Cohn invited his “friend” G. David Schine, an anti-Communist propagandist, to join McCarthy’s staff as a consultant. When Schine was drafted into the US Army in 1953, Cohn made repeated and extensive efforts to procure special treatment for Schine. He contacted military officials from the Secretary of the Army down to Schine’s company commander and demanded for Schine to be given light duties, extra leave, and exemption from overseas assignment. light duties, extra leave, an exemption from overseas assignment — and threatened to “wreck the Army” if they didn’t accede to his demands. The bitter irony of all this is that while Cohn was pursuing special treatment for his “special friend”, McCarthy’s witch hunt extended beyond communists to also include gay people. (See The Lavender Scare) That conflict, along with McCarthy’s accusations of Communists in the defense department, led to the Army–McCarthy hearings of 1954, in which among other developments the Army charged Cohn and McCarthy with using improper pressure on Schine’s behalf, and McCarthy and Cohn countercharged that the Army was holding Schine “hostage” in an attempt to squelch McCarthy’s investigations into Communists in the Army. During the hearings, a photograph of Schine was introduced, and Joseph N. Welch, the Army’s attorney in the hearings, accused Cohn of doctoring the image to show Schine alone with Army Secretary Robert T. Stevens.  Welch asked the staffer sarcastically, “Did you think it came from a pixie?” McCarthy interjected, “Will counsel (Welch) for my benefit define– I think he might be an expert on that– what a pixie is?” Welch responded, “Yes. I should say, Mr. Senator, that a pixie is a close relative of a fairy.” in a jab at Cohn. Others in the chamber who were in on the rumors, broke into laughter. Cohn later called the remark, “malicious,” “wicked,” and “indecent.”

After leaving McCarthy, Cohn had a 30-year career as an attorney in New York City. His clients included Trump, Mafia figures Tony Salerno, Carmine Galante, and John Gotti, Studio 54 owners Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, Texas financier and philanthropist Shearn Moody, Jr., and the New York Yankees baseball club. He was known for his active social life, charitable giving, and combative personality. In the early 1960s he became a member of the John Birch Society and a principal figure in the Western Goals Foundation. He maintained close ties in conservative political circles.  Cohn’s frequent phone pals included Nancy Reagan and the former C.I.A. director William Casey, who “called Roy almost daily during [Reagan’s] 1st election.”  Cohn was also as an informal advisor to Richard Nixo

Donald Trump, and sought advice after they first met asking: How should he and his father respond to Justice Department allegations that their company had systematically discriminated against black people seeking housing?

“My view is tell them to go to hell,” Cohn said, “and fight the thing in court.”

Cohn also showed Trump how to exploit power and instill fear through a simple formula: attack, counterattack and never apologize.

Trump prized Cohn’s friendship and his reputation for aggression. According to a New York Times profile a quarter-century ago, when frustrated by an adversary, Trump would pull out a photograph of Cohn and ask, “Would you rather deal with him?”

In a 2008 article published in The New Yorker magazine Jeffrey Toobin quotes Roger Stone on Cohn’s homosexuality: “Roy was not gay. He was a man who liked having sex with men. Gays were weak, effeminate. He always seemed to have these young blond boys around. It just wasn’t discussed. He was interested in power and access.  Stone worked with Cohn beginning with the Reagan campaign during the Republican Party presidential primaries, 1976.

While publicly closeted and working actively against gay rights, Cohn partied at the best gay bars and threw lavish parties in New York and Provincetown. 

In 1984, Roy Cohn was diagnosed with AIDS.

Cohn used his connections to jump to the head of the line for treatment with the then-scarce and experimental AZT. By the time he died in 1986, he maintained his public denial both of his homosexuality and his disease — he said it was “cancer.” In Tony Kushner’s Angels In America, Cohn is portrayed as a power hungry, self-loathing hypocrite who is dying of AIDS while haunted by the ghost of Ethel Rosenberg. Cohn’s name is also on a panel of the AIDS memorial quilt. It reads: “Roy Cohn: Bully, Coward, Victim.”

A fitting eulogy if there ever was one.

After 60 Years Lesbian Kicked Out Of The Military During The Lavender Scare Gets Honorable Discharge

Helen Grace James grew up in Pennsylvania  and enlisted in the Air Force in 1952, and had a fine service record. She was promoted to Airman 2nd Class.

But when she was stationed at Roslyn Air Force Base on Long Island, Airman James came under investigation by the Office of Special Investigation. One night in the winter of 1955,during The Lavender Scare she sat with a friend in her car to eat sandwiches when an officer shined a blinding light into her eyes and took her into custody. She was later interrogated for hours. Investigators told Helen Grace James that if she didn’t sign a statement they put in front of her, they would tell her family she was gay.

Helen Grace James signed. She was discharged as “undesirable.”

Now60 years later Helen Grace James has,received her honorable discharge this week after decades of fighting the government for recognition.

“I’m still trying to process it,” she told NBC. “It was both joy and shock. It was really true. It was really going to be an ‘honorable discharge. The Air Force recognizes me as a full person in the military,” she said, having done “my job helping to take care of the country I love.”

Justice Department Ordered to Release 1950’s Gay ‘Purge’ Lavender Scare Documents

 

 

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled last week that the Justice Department must search for and release historical records pertaining to a “purge” of gay and lesbian federal employees by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) under J. Edgar Hoover.

The documents are related to President Dwight Eisenhower’s Executive Order 10450, which gave the heads of federal agencies the power to investigate and dismiss government workers if they posed a national security risk.

The lawsuit’s plaintiff, along with LGBT historians, however, claim the actual purpose of the program was to allow the Hoover-led FBI legal authority to fire thousands of gay and lesbian employees across the federal government.

U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth in Friday’s ruling rejected arguments by the FBI that the search would produce a burdensome number of documents, and he was skeptical of claims that searches relating to Chief Justice Warren Burger — an assistant attorney general at the time who was tasked with enforcing EO 10450 — turned up no relevant results.

“The Government states that there is not a single responsive document amongst the results,” Lamberth wrote in the ruling. “Respectfully, this strains credulity.”

Lillian Faderman, an LGBT historian and author of “The Gay Revolution,” called the district court’s ruling “very significant,” but she noted Eisenhower’s executive order wasn’t the beginning of the U.S. government’s weeding out of gay employees.

“Truman in 1947 had signed [Executive Order 9835, known as the “Loyalty Order”], and that gave enough ammunition to the State Department to begin witch hunting homosexuals,” she said. “Throughout the early 1950s there were firings, but [Eisenhower’s order] gave even more ammunition.”

Faderman said the purge officially continued until 1975, when the U.S. Civil Service Commission (the government entity that actually did the firing) ended it

“It’s important to the preservation of LGBT American history,” said Lisa Linsky a partner at McDermott Will & Emery, the law firm that has been working pro bono with the Mattachine Society for the past five years to get these documents released, “The files are part of a broader story. It’s also important that our allies and other fellow citizens understand what the government did so we could do our best to avoid repeating history.”

“Given the current environment, we need to do everything that we can to identify these historic documents, preserve them and make sure that the public is aware of the story of the government animus and discrimination toward LGBT people,” she explained, “because we’re at a time when the government — this particular administration — is not supportive of the LGBT community and preserving the civil rights that we have obtained.”

John Kerry Apologizes On Behalf Of The State Department For Past LGBT Discrimination

Secretary of State John Kerry issued a statement on Monday apologizing for past discrimination against members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community at the State Department.

On behalf of the Department, I apologize to those who were impacted by the practices of the past and reaffirm the Department’s steadfast commitment to diversity and inclusion for all our employees, including members of the LGBT community,” the statement reads.

Kerry said that he has stood “strongly in support” of the LGBT community throughout his term in office, though he recognized that has not always been the case.

In the past – as far back as the 1940s, but continuing for decades – the Department of State was among many public and private employers that discriminated against employees and job applicants on the basis of perceived sexual orientation, forcing some employees to resign or refusing to hire certain applicants in the first place,” the statement reads. “These actions were wrong then, just as they would be wrong today

Kerry’s statement came just weeks after Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland sent a letter to Secretary Kerry asking for a formal apology for hundreds of firings that occurred during the so-called lavender scare, a Cold War effort to rid the State Department of gays and lesbians.

In a Nov. 29 letter, Cardin wrote: “There is little we can do to undo the hurts and wrongs of the past. But we can take steps to assure that the lessons of these episodes are learned and remembered, and in so doing make a contribution to assuring that such injustice will never transpire again.”