dialog on Pride

05 – The Lavender Scare of the 1950s

In 1950, the U.S. State Department fired 91 employees because they either identified or were suspected of being homosexual. Over the next two years, they would fire nearly 200 state employees for the same reason. Caught up in the Red Scare of the 1950s after Senator Joe McCarthy’s (false) claims of communists invading the government, Undersecretary of State James E. Webb oversaw the purging of homosexuals from bureaucratic ranks.

Supposedly, the reasoning was that homosexuals were prone to blackmail (being outed), thus making them security risks. Despite this moment of panic surrounding queer people that took place prior to the Cold War, no actual security breaches were ever linked to any homosexual employees.

Frank Kameny leading a picket line in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia on July 4, 1965. (Source: The Lavender Scare.)