Archival Papers Show Discrimination Against Gays in Government

Thursday, May 22, 2014

In November 1964, just four months after President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the historic Civil Rights Act, a Johnson administration official asked one what the policy was when it came to firing a gay staffer.

The memo that came in response said that because of the "revulsion which homosexuality inspires in the normal person," it was common practice to "'lean over backwards' to rule against a homosexual."

The policy in that memo would be one adhered to for the next decade. And only today, thanks to the work of Charles Francis of the Mattachine Society of Washington, are memos like that one making it into the public eye.

By using public-records requests to round up hundreds of documents, Francis has put together a comprehensive picture of institutionalized anti-gay policies across the federal government.


Charles Francis

Produced by:

Mythili Rao


T.J. Raphael

Comments [2]

Regarding the idea (standard for 1964) that being gay was a major disqualification for govt employment.

Public opinion had something to do with it. I recalled something from the Lyndon Johnson era. With just a little digging, I found a nice article in Wikipedia about Walter Jenkins, aide to Johnson, who was arrested in a YMCA in 1964, during the Johnson-Goldwater campaign for the Presidency.

One columnist wrote on October 15, "Walter Jenkins has revived and dramatized all the harsh feelings about morals, and political cliques, and the Texas gang in Washington."[21] Yet the incident disappeared so quickly from the political scene that Theodore H. White, surveying the 1964 election campaign [in 1965], assessed its impact this way: "Perhaps the most amazing of all events of the campaign of 1964 is that the nation faced the fact fully—and shrugged its shoulders."[11]

May. 22 2014 05:08 PM
Harry Sweet from New York

2 dumb pieces for the same reason, but nicely balanced.

OF COURSE 40 and 50 years ago the cultural standard was what from 2014 we would call extreme homophobia. This is almost as surprising as the fact that the sun has risen in the same part of the sky my whole life. That is the way it was, now it is changing. Hopefully for the better.

2 and 2 is a math FACT rather more stable than cultural "facts", which is what the relationship of gays, women, Jews, blacks, and all the rest to the country and each other. Basic math facts and basic facts about our universe, like the earth being round cannot be compared to cultural traditions, like marriage rituals, who marries who and all that.

Not that long ago, the exact same argument was made about folks of different races marrying. I'm not even saying I agree or disagree, but I hope I can tell the difference between a rock and a mutable cultural idea.

May. 22 2014 04:03 PM

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