On the 60th Anniversary of The Lavender Scare, Don’t Forget About LGBT Employment Discrimination
Today SAGE is pleased to present a guest post from Josh Howard, director of the upcoming film The Lavender Scare, described as "a bold new documentary film that shines a light on this topic… and one of the biggest witch hunts ever." Here, he tells you a bit about the film, which highlights a little-known part of American history, and ways you can get involved with making sure more people see it.
Did you know that this year marks the 60th anniversary of a witch hunt against gays and lesbians that was as aggressive and vicious as any in modern American history?
Some SAGE members may have experienced this travesty firsthand and remember it all too well. Others may have friends and family who were impacted. Called The Lavender Scare, this appalling act was launched 60 years ago this month by the federal government and still reverberates in ongoing employment discrimination today.
Please join The Lavender Scare Kickstarter Campaign and help us finish a documentary that exposes this shameful, decades-long witch hunt of gays and lesbians in federal jobs. Not many people know the story, which is outlined in my film trailer.
Our documentary—with an award-winning filmmaking and production team led by Emmy-winner and former producer for 60 Minutes
Josh Howard—is capturing the real life tales of this scare, which lasted
longer and was arguably far more ruinous in many ways than the more famous
McCarthy Era red scare. This is an opportunity for
SAGE members to make sure history is not forgotten and share with others what
really happened to older LGBT Americans.
On April 27, 1953, President Eisenhower signed an executive order that outlawed the employment of homosexuals in the federal government. Over the next three decades, FBI and other federal agents hunted down thousands of LGBT people who were summarily fired from their jobs. Careers were ruined, lives destroyed, and more than a few committed suicide rather than tell their families. The official Lavender Scare ended when President Clinton finally rescinded the order, but the legacy continues in 29 states where it is still perfectly legal to fire LGBT employees on the basis of their sexual orientation.
It’s astounding to consider, especially after our current president just included the fight for LGBT equality in his inaugural address, and forever stamped the significance of the gay rights movement’s galvanizing Stonewall Riots into a trifecta of social movement beginnings, alongside the African American civil rights standoff in Selma and the women’s rights movement’s groundbreaking convention in Seneca Falls.
To quote President Obama: “We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths—that all of us are created equal—is the star that guides us still, just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall.”
Beyond its relevance to the historic struggles of the LGBT community, The Lavender Scare film is a lighthouse, illuminating the facts facing us today.
As the Human Rights Campaign notes, “There is no federal law that consistently protects LGBT individuals from employment discrimination; it remains legal in 29 states to discriminate based on sexual orientation, and in 34 states to do so based on gender identity or expression. As a result, LGBT people face serious discrimination in employment, including being fired, being denied a promotion, and experiencing harassment on the job. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) would provide basic protections against workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.”
This is why we think the story of The Lavender Scare is as relevant today as it was 60 years ago, and why we are raising awareness about—and support for—the film. Here are a few ways you can get involved, share YOUR story, and spread the word:
- View the trailer and read more at the film’s website about how the film is a both a dramatic human story complete with heroes and villains, as well as a call to social action.
- Join the Kickstarter campaign—now through May 21st—and back the editing and finalizing of this groundbreaking film documentary.
- Share YOUR story. What employment discrimination have you faced? Please share your story with SAGE and post to The Lavender Scare’s Wall of Pride.
- Sign up for email updates on the Lavender Scare website. You’ll get updated on the film’s progress and how the Kickstarter campaign is progressing.
- Spread the word and support the film in other ways, such donating directly and signing up for the mailing list on the film’s website, liking Lavender Scare Facebook Page and following the film on Twitter @LavenderScare. Please share information about the film and how to support it with your friends and networks, through these multiple channels.
With our deepest appreciation for your support,
Josh Howard and The Lavender Scare filmmakers