On Wednesday, President Joe Biden issued a proclamation acknowledging the 70th anniversary of the Lavender Scare – a 1950’s firing spree which took place after President Dwight D. Eisenhower (R) signed an executive order banning LGBTQ+ people from working for the U.S. government, accusing gay and lesbian employees of working with the Soviet Russian Communist Party to compromise the country’s national security.
“We must reflect honestly on the darkest chapters of our story and on how far we have come,” Biden wrote, decrying the “decades-long period when 5,000 to 10,000 LGBTQI+ Federal employees were investigated, were interrogated, and lost their jobs simply because of who they were and whom they loved.”
The Lavender Scare began in 1947 and continued throughout the 1950s under the belief that homosexual Communist sympathizers had infiltrated top security positions in the U.S. government. Congress and State Department heads authorized the investigations and firings of “sexual perverts” from the government. No evidence ever proved that gay government employees had worked as Russian spies.
Biden emphasized “the importance of telling the complete history of our Nation” and said, “Great nations face their history openly and honestly,” a pointed line as Republicans across the country seek to ban books and curricula that teach students about structural racism.
The president lamented the lives that were destroyed by the Lavender Scare, and he praised the brave activists who stood up in the face of it to fight for equality. He celebrated the great progress LGBTQ+ people have made and his administration’s dedication to the community but also acknowledged that “the struggle for equal justice is not over.”
“Today and in each generation, we must rededicate ourselves to ending the hatred and discrimination that LGBTQI+ Americans continue to face.”
“That includes addressing a wave of discriminatory laws that target them — especially transgender children — and that echo the hateful stereotypes and stigma of the Lavender Scare. My Administration is standing firmly with brave LGBTQI+ Americans to push back against these injustices.”
Last year, Democrats introduced a bill to apologize for the Lavender Scare.
The Lavender Offense Victim Exoneration (LOVE) Act — introduced by Reps. Joaquín Castro (D-TX), David Cicilline (D-RI), and Dina Titus (D-NV) — would have Congress issue a formal apology for its role in the witch hunt and mandate investigations into the State Department employees who were fired during its heyday.
The legislation would also create a State Department Advancement Board to help LGBTQ+ diplomats and their spouses with intra-departmental matters and interactions with foreign countries. Similar legislation was introduced in 2019 and 2020.