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The Lavender Scare

Page history last edited by Robert W. Maloy 1 month, 1 week ago



Event Summary


Commonly referred to as the fraternal twin of the Cold-War era Red Scare, the Lavender Scare was arguably more vicious and impactful.


  • Targeting members of the LGBTQ+ community, widespread homophobia in the U.S. government led to the firing of thousands of state department employees and an overall intolerance for non-heterosexual people in the workforce.


    • Through documented evidence of employment discrimination a well as rhetoric across media channels, we can see that homophobia was fed by the anxiety surrounding the Cold War, and that LGBTQ+ people have faced stigmas, harassment, and institutionalized discrimination throughout US history.


For an overview of the Lavender Scare, link to this Wikipedia Page.

Lavender Scare: U.S. Fired 5,000 Gays in 1953 Witch Hunt from ABC News (March 5, 2012)

For more background, go to this Lavender Scare article from the National Archives that includes primary sources and photographs


An interview transcript with David K. Johnson, author of The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government


Paper published in Western Illinois Historical Review on the Persecution of Lesbianism during the Cold War



Primary Sources


For a Government Analysis of the Lavender Scare and the reasons behind it click here.


Employment of Homosexuals and other Sex Perverts in Government, 1950


Executive Order 10450: Security Requirements for Government Employment (April 27, 1953)


Documented Evidence of Employment Discrimination & Its Effect on LGBT People, University of California School of Law (July 2011)


Transcript of Congressional Record from House of Representatives, 1950


1960s CBS Documentary Clip "The Homosexuals" from Mike Wallace that gives an idea of the general public opinion of the LGBTQ+ community, particularly gay men.


  Multimedia Resources


Lavender Scare Film Trailer


The Lavender Scare Videos on Vimeo


See also The 60th Anniversary of the Lavender Scare from Human Rights Campaign


U.S. Fired 5000 Gays in 1953 "Witch Hunt" from ABC News (March 5, 2012).


The Second Red Scare's Fraternal Twin, Book Review of The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government, David K. Johnson (University of Chicago Press



Frank Ramney, and Barbara Gittings, Gay Rights Activists


Frank Kamney, 2010


Frank Kamney, 2010


Frank Kameny: Gay Rights Pioneer Who Took on the U.S. Government from Independent (October 23, 2011)



For a full autobiographical interview with Frank Kameny watch this video. 


Frank Kamney from LGBT History month


Franklin Kamney, Gay Rights Pioneer, Dies at 86, New York Times, October 12, 2011


Frank Kamney, Fought to End Discrimination in the Federal Workforce, to be Honored with Induction in Labor Hall of Fame from the United States Department of Labor


Artifact Walls: Frank Kamney, National Museum of American History. See also Remembering Frank Kamney: Civil Rights Pioneer also from National Museum of American History



Excerpts from an Interview with Frank Kameny discussing his life and work


Barbara Gittings, Frank Kamney and Dr. Anonymous, 1972
Barbara Gittings, Frank Kamney and Dr. Anonymous, 1972

Barbara Gittings, 74, Prominent Gay Rights Activist since '50s, Dies, New York Times, May 15, 2007

Barbara Gittings from LGBT History Month



State Department Apologizes for the Lavender Scare: In January 2017, outgoing Secretary of State John Kerry issued a formal apology to the LGBTQ+ community for decades of discrimination from the State Department


The Long Road to Marriage Equality, a New York Times opinion piece that gives an overview of the history of LGBTQ+ rights in the United States, and discusses the Lavender Scare


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