New Bill Wants Congress To Apologize For ‘Lavender Scare’ Firings

Photos by Taylor Grote and Andy Feliciotti on Unsplash / Edited by Devin Randall.

Two congressmen have introduced a bill to fix the harms done by the “lavender scare.”

According to the Washington Blade, U.S. Reps. David Cicilline (D-RI) and Joaquin Castro (D-TX) introduced the Lavender Offense Victim Exoneration (LOVE) Act of 2020. the bill acknowledges around 1,000 people who lost their jobs at the State Department during the 1950s and 1960s “due to their sexual orientation.”

The LOVE bill hopes to make Congress formally apologize for its part in the “lavender scare.” It also wants to form a commission within the State Department that will review these 1,000 or so cases and “correct employment records.” The bill also hopes to have the State Department “report on its action to ensure foreign countries recognize and accredit the spouses of same-sex diplomats serving overseas as well as address the failure of those countries that do not” and require “the establishment of an Advancement Board to address issues faced by LGBTQ diplomats and their families.”   

In the mid-1900s, a moral panic took over the United States. Contributing to the government’s anti-communist rhetoric at the time, American society feared an “invasion” of gay men and women. Part of this was due to outright homophobia and part of it was due to hysteria against communist sympathizers. This “lavender scare” then resulted in several closeted men getting outed, losing their jobs, and sometimes getting arrested on bogus charges.

As Former U.S. Senator Alan K. Simpson wrote in the non-fiction book Dying for Joe McCarthy’s Sins: The Suicide of Wyoming Senator Lester Hunt, “The so-called ‘Red Scare’ has been the main focus of most historians of that period of time. A lesser-known element … and one that harmed far more people was the witch-hunt McCarthy and others conducted against homosexuals.”

Recognizing these terrible actions partially committed by government officials in the past, Cicilline and Castro hope to make it right. They have also received support from Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and U.S. Reps. Jim McGovern (D-MA), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Deb Haaland (D-NM), Andre Carson (D-IN) and Brad Sherman (D-CA). All of whom have cosponsored the LOVE bill.

“For too long, LGBTQ individuals were persecuted and wrongfully terminated by our own government for no good reason,” said Cicilline. “Its long past time the government acknowledged this horrific practice, apologize to those who were harmed and commit to full equality for all Americans. This bill inches us that closer to that goal.”

Castro then added:

“While many people are familiar with the Red Scare of the 1950’s, history has barely mentioned the ‘lavender scare’ persecution of LGBTQ employees in the State Department that harmed far more people.  Even today, LGBTQ employees at the State Department continue to face significant challenges when serving our nation overseas. It is long past time that Congress acknowledge this injustice, and for the State Department to reconcile its discriminatory past and address the current challenges faced by LGBTQ employees and their families.  No matter who they love or who they are, our diplomats deserve dignity and respect.”


Source: The Washington Blade,

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