In the early 1950s, Senator Joseph McCarthy launched what became known as the “Red Scare,” where he loudly denounced multiple people and organizations as “communists,” and proceeded to lead the charge to get them out of government.

Following this was the “Lavender Scare,” where a small but loud group of people, McCarthy included, decided that queer people posed a threat to national security (and were probably also communist).

On April 27, 1953, President Eisenhower signed Executive Order 10450, banning anyone from the LGBTQ+ community from working in any government job. Over the course of the year, the State Department reported firing 425 employees. Across the entire government, over 5,000 people were fired (many were outed) – including straight people who were perceived as possibly being gay.

In 1973, a federal judge reversed the EO and ruled that people cannot be fired from government positions based on sexual orientation.

Over the last several decades, small moves have been made to correct the course created by the Lavender Scare. In 1995, President Clinton signed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which truly didn’t do anything except tolerate queer people in government positions as long as they didn’t actually mention anything about their lives. In 2015, Secretary of State John Kerry issued a public apology for the damage done by the mass layoffs.

But words are not enough. In 2019, the Senate introduced the LOVE Act to investigate the terminations of government employees under the Lavender Scare. The Senate voted to send it to the Foreign Relations Committee at that time. But as of spring 2023, the committee has done nothing on it.

See also: LGBTQIA+ History