1964 October 21

American Mental Health Association Denounces “Hysteria” Over Homosexuality


On this day, the American Mental Health Association denounced the public “hysteria” over homosexuality that followed the arrest of Walter Jenkins, a close aide to President Lyndon Johnson, in an apparent homosexual incident in Washington, DC. Reportedly, someone in the Washington, D.C., police department leaked information about the arrest to the news media. Jenkins resigned his position with the White House as a result.

In the 1950s there was a widespread national panic over homosexuality, often referred to as the “Lavender Scare” (see March 29, 1950). This included particular panic over homosexuals in the federal government who might be blackmailed into disclosing government secrets (see April 27, 1953). Public and professional attitudes toward homosexuality began to change between the 1960s and 1970s, however. The American Psychiatric Association declared that homosexuality was not a mental illness on December 15, 1973.

The statement on this day: “The fact that an individual is homosexual . . . does not per se make him more unstable and more of a security risk than any heterosexual person.”

Visit the American Mental Health Counselors Association web site: http://www.amhca.org/

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