1950 May 19

“The Lavender Scare:” Homophobic Panic Hits Washington


A homophobic panic swept the nation in the 1950s, and was particularly intense in Washington, D.C., where anti-Communist members of Congress were certain that government officials who were homosexual would be coerced into divulging national secrets. Senator Kenneth Wherry (R–Nebraska) on this day quoted an estimate by Lt. Roy E. Blick of the Washington, D.C. police department that there were 3,500 “perverts” [his word] in the nation’s capital (March 29, 1950). The estimate, of course, was without any solid foundation.

The Lavender Scare also included a Senate report, released on November 27, 1950, known as the Hoey Report (after Senator Clyde Hoey of North Carolina), declaring that homosexuals were “unfit” for government employment. Also, President Dwight Eisenhower, on April 27, 1953, revised President Truman’s Loyalty Program (see March 21, 1947) to include immoral behavior, which included homosexuality.

Read: David K. Johnson, The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government (2004)

Watch a 1960s CBS documentary, The Homosexuals, with traditional anti-homosexual stereotypes: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a-b19wXL0Jk

Watch Boys Beware, a classic homophobic warning film: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H2zikCUPPxw

Learn more: Craig Loftin, Masked Voices: Gay Men and Lesbians in Cold War America (2012)

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