Court Forces Agencies to Come Clean on Mid-Century Purge of Gay Feds

Between 7,000 and 10,000 LGBT federal employees lost their jobs in the 1950s, group says.

The FBI will soon have to turn over documents involving its role in purging the federal government of gay and lesbian employees, under a recent court ruling.

A lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights group called the Mattachine Society challenged the Justice Department after its records request into the decades-long incident initially yielded little in the way of actual results. The removal of LGBT federal employees occurred after a series of government rulings, culminating in a 1953 executive order issued by President Dwight Eisenhower that mandated employees in positions related to national security must be free of “sexual perversion.” The order led to the removal of 7,000 to 10,000 employees in the 1950s, according to the Mattachine Society. The practice was not officially banned until President Bill Clinton signed an executive order prohibiting discrimination against gay and lesbian federal employees.

U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth in his ruling cast doubt on the government’s argument it had no documents on the enforcement of the order, which has become known as the Lavender Scare.

It “strains credulity” that the FBI found no documents relating to Warren Burger, then Civil Division chief for the Justice Department, the judge found, adding it was “suspicious at best, and malicious at worst.” Lamberth also faulted Justice for improperly redacting certain documents. He said bringing more transparency to the government’s efforts, as spearheaded by then FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, would allow “the public to better study the effects of EO 10450 on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender federal employees who were surveiled, harassed, and/or terminated under this program and others like it.”

Congress worked in concert with the executive branch’s efforts to identify and ultimately fire LGBT employees throughout the 1950s and 1960s, with the Senate’s Subcommittee on Investigations releasing a report in 1950 titled “Employment of Homosexuals and Other Sex Perverts in Government.” The subcommittee ultimately determined “homosexuals and other sex perverts were not proper persons to be employed in government for two reasons -- first, they [were] generally unsuitable, and second, they constitute[d] security risks.”

Mattachine Society Director and Treasurer Pate Felts said the victory in court was made even more significant after Justice recently submitted a friend-of-the-court brief in a Civil Rights Act case in which it argued the law does not prohibit workplace discrimination against LGBT employees. That argument contradicts a ruling by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission during the Obama administration that the discrimination was illegal.

“Now that the Department of Justice has declared ‘sexual orientation’ is not protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act for workplace discrimination, we believe the brutal evidentiary history of federal discrimination is even more important for the legal community, lawmakers and the public to review and understand,” Felts said. “History calls out for the release of all the Eisenhower ‘sexual perversion’ papers.”

President Obama signed an executive order extending the discrimination protections entitled to federal employees to transgender workers. He signed another order that prevented federal contractors from discriminating against their LGBT employees. In 2014, the Merit Systems Protection Board found LGBT employees would not be fully protected until Congress enacted legislation codifying Clinton and Obama’s orders.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.