Julie Cove May 3, 2011

The Lavender Scare of 1950

+In 1950, many politicians, journalists, and citizens thought that homosexuals posed more of a threat to national security than Communists!+They were considered "security risks" - behaviors or associations that might lead one inadvertently or unwilling to betray secrets in the future.+ Senator Joseph McCarthy was the cause for this. In 1950, he forced 91 homosexuals out of the government.

+Because McCarthy was senator, everyone trusted him. Anti gay campaigns arose and Congress called for an investigation. In the 1950's the newspapers didn't talk too much about it because people said "the subject was still under wraps in those days".+Congress got involved, newspapers were all over The Lavender Scare.+Newspapers referred to them as "the unmentionables". Some coverage was cryptic which made the paper have special coded language that had to be carefully interpreted by historians. +People believed that their habits made them especially vulnerable to blackmail.+They were called "moral weaklings, sexual misfits, moral risks, misfits, undesirables, or people with unusual morals".

Significance and Impact on the Cold War

The lavender scare was very similar to McCarthyism. People were afraid of gay people. There were also "hunts" for gay people just like with communism. Allowing homosexuals to serve in government positions would threaten national security, create "homosexual cliques", and destroy morals. Politicians discovered that the "gay issue" could be used as a powerful weapon against their opponents.
There were many strikes and demands for gay rights but people rarely listened. The first court case that helped give gay people rights, made sure that there was actual proof against accused gay people working in the government. The Cold war focused a lot on "misfits" like communists and gay people. Citizens were so uneducated on the subject of gay people. When people don't know a lot about something they automatically assume that it's bad. Today, gay people have more rights, depending on the state. now that we're more educated on the "issue" not as many people are against it.

Why were these people looked down on?

Both groups; Communists and Gays, were perceived as hidden subcultures with their own meeting places, literature, cultural codes, and bonds of loyalty. Both groups were thought to recruit to their ranks the psychologically weak or disturbed. And both groups were considered immoral and godless. Many people believed that the two groups were working together to undermine the government.


Other Facts

Roosevelt and Truman gave in to Americans who didn't want gays in the government because they were also resentful of the New Deal. Washington D.C. was the basis of America and if there were going to be gays in the most important place, then they could be all over America. Washington was full of scientists and other experts who were imposing their ideas on the country. They felt this bureaucracy threatened American traditions of individualism and self-reliance. Getting rid of gay citizens was part of a larger attack on the New Deal. If men were caught talking to other men alone, they would be accused of being gay. The same happened with women. People felt like heroes if they had found a gay person in the government, just like the witch hunts and McCarthyism. Co workers would deliberately avoid speaking to each other.

Senator Clyde Hoey was given the task of investigating homosexuals in the government. He didn't want to do this at all! He didn't want there to be public hearings that McCarthy could make big headlines out of. Hoey wasn't a fan of McCarthy and his tactics.

Many physicians tried explaining to the government that gender and sexuality were fluid and that we are not 100% male or 100% female. The most important doctor was Leonard A. Scheele who wouldn't give up.

There were months of investigation but very little evidence backed up the claim that homosexuals were a national security issue. There was not a single piece of evidence that a homosexual American was blackmailed into revealing state secrets.

The Hoey committee's final report, issued Dec. 1950, ignored this and stated that all of the intelligence agencies of the government that testified "are in complete agreement that sex perverts in Government constitute security risks". It was also said that Russians were told to find these homosexuals, and find weaknesses in the private lives of American Government workers.

Many cartoons in newspapers made fun of this situation and used batman as the attraction.


This was the center of gay life in Washington. Then after WWII, the police launched a "pervert elimination campaign" to get rid of all homosexuals.

The above picture shows Frank Kameny. One of the most important
people who fought for gay civil rights.

Examples Of What Went On

Frank Kameny joined the army as a civilian employee. He used astronomical observations to accurately target the intercontinental missiles it was developing. Two civil service investigators were told that he was gay. The officers refused to share the evidence. He made no attempt to hide this. Later on in the 50's, many gay men fled to Key Terminal in San Francisco, which was later dismissed by the FBI.
That same year, the Soviet Union launched the earths first artificial satellite, Sputnick. Americans were shocked to find themselves behind the space race. They Kameny was one of the few hundred astronomers in the country. He was still fired. The government thought that he would share the United State's secrets with The Soviet Union. They said his dismissal would only be temporary because he was so important.
Because of the contest between the United States and the Soviet Union, scientists were targeted the worst for homosexuality. The anti gay attitude by the government was just increasing. They promised to keep it confidential and they lied. Every arrest was in the newspaper and most people new about them.
Kameny looked for help through the Mattachine society to fight the anti gay attitude. All they could do was provide moral support and give small financial contributions for his bills.
On November 15 1961, they had written a constitution for the Mattachine Society and elected Kameny as president. The Federal Bureau of Investigation was aware of these meetings and supervised them.
This group boldly claimed that homosexuals deserved full American citizenship rights and end the injustices they experienced, particularly in the federal government.
"The society gave us a rallying point, cause, around which we centered our lives"- Frank Kameny
He was willing to fight publicity, using his own name. That's how people remembered him.
This group picketed the White House, as did other groups.
Not too many people were involved in the Mattachine Society. Only about 100 people showed up to each meeting. The Civil Service Commission agreed to a meeting with this Society and gave them a few rights. It was going slow but it had been paying off. Today, America is a lot more accepting than it was in the 1950's.

Krugler, David F. "The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians
in the Federal Government." The Historian 69.3 (2007): 547+. General OneFile.
Web 26 Apr. 2011 http://find.galegroup.com/gps/infomark.do?&contentSet=IAC-Documents&type=retrieve&tabID=T002& prodId=IPS&docId=A168662877&source=gale&srcprod=ITOF&userGroupName=mlin_c_auburnhs&version=1.0

"Anti-Gay Policy During the Cold War." Legal Times 5 Jan. 2004. General OneFile.
Web 26 Apr. 2011 http://find.galegroup.com/gps/infomark.do?&contentSet=IAC-Documents&type=retrieve&tabID=T004 prodId=IPS&docId=A111862319&source=gale&srcprod=ITOF&userGroupName=mlin_c_auburnhs&version=1.0

Ingalls, Robert. The United States Since 1945: A Documentary Reader. Podicherry, India:
SPI publishing services, 2008. 37-44. Print.

Johnson, David. The Lavender Scare. Chicago: University of Chicago, 2004. 2-60. Print.

Howard, Josh. "The Lavender Scare." A Documentary Film by Josh Howard. CBS, 2011.
Web. 27 Apr 2011. http://www.thelavenderscare.com/home/lav/page_72/cbs_reports__the_homosexuals.html