U.S. Government Versus Homosexuals:1950-1955
A sampling of news stories from the years 1950 to 1955 conveys the mood created by the antihomosexual, anti-Communist witch-hunts occurring during that period and continuing for some time after.
In the early 1950s, the fledgling homosexual emancipation organization, the Mattachine Society, was just getting started in los Angeles, with a number of left-wing homosexuals prominent in the leadership. To understand the earliest years of the Mattachine movement it is essential to know about the simultaneous witch-hunting of "perverts" and "subversives" then taking place.
"persons in the shady category"
On March 1, 1950, the New York Times reports that John E. Peurifoy, in charge of the State Department security program, was asked by a Senate committee how many department employees had resigned while under investigation as security risks since the beginning of 1947. "Ninety-one persons in the shady category," replied Mr. Peurifoy. "Most of these were homosexuals."97
On March 9, the Times reports a Senate subcommittee inquiry into Senator Joseph McCarthy's charges that the United States government employed "red sympathizers." McCarthy was the first witness, and homosexuality as well as Communism was an issue.
McCarthy had earlier declared in the Senate that a "flagrantly homosexual" State Department employee, discharged as a security risk in 1946, had had his job restored under "pressure" from a "high State Department official." McCarthy refused demands by Democrats that he state the name of the official. Later, the Times reports, McCarthy told reporters he did not know the name of the official, but asserted it was in the files and could be found by the subcommittee.98
On March 15, the Times reports McCarthy's testimony about another government employee:
- A former State Department official, whose name he withheld, was reported in the Washington police files to be homosexual and had been allowed to resign from the State Department in 1948 only to find employment in a "most sensitive" place, the Central Intelligence Agency. Mr. McCarthy gave his name privately to the subcommittee. It was an "important" case, he asserted, because such persons were officially considered to be security risks because they were "subject to blackmail."99
On March 20 the Times reports that Representative John J. Rooney, Democrat of New York, had accused the Commerce Department of laxity in weeding out homosexuals and praised the State Department for vigilance in that regard.100
On April 19, a Times news story is headed:
PERVERTS CALLED GOVERNMENT PERIL
Gabrielson, G.O.P. Chief, Says They Are as Dangerous as Reds
- Guy George Gabrielson, Republican National Chairman, asserted today that "sexual perverts who have infiltrated our Government in recent years" were "perhaps as dangerous as the actual Communists."
- He elevated what he called the "homosexual angle" to the national political level in his first news letter of 1950, addressed to about 7,000 party workers, under the heading: "This Is the News from Washington."
- Giving National Committee support to the campaign of Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, Republican of Wisconsin, against the State Department, but without mentioning him by name, Mr. Gabrielson said: ...
- "Perhaps as dangerous as the actual Communists are the sexual perverts who have infiltrated our Government in recent years. The State Department has confessed that it has had to fire ninety-one of these. It is the talk of Washington and of the Washington correspondents corps.
- "The country would be more aroused over this tragic angle of the situation if it were not for the difficulties of the newspapers and radio commentators in adequately presenting the facts, while respecting the decency of their American audiences. "101
On April 25, the Times reports a Republican demand
- that an inquiry to determine whether "disloyal" persons were employed, be expanded to encompass the subject of sexual perversion within the Govemment.102
On April 26, the Times reports:
- Senator Kenneth S. Wherry of Nebraska, the Republican floor leader, told the Senate that he had just been advised by "the head of a Government agency" that a man accused by Senator McCarthy of being a pervert, though not a Communist, had resigned.
The Times continues:
- The identity of this person was not disclosed .... Senator Tydings had just stated that he had personally investigated the episode and was turning over "important matters" about it to his subcommittee. Tydings then asked his Republican critics:
- "Won't you stop this continued heckling about homosexuals and let us get on with the main work of finding Communists?"103
On May 5, the Times reports that New York State's Republican Governor Dewey accused the Democratic national administration of tolerating spies, traitors and sex offenders in the Government service.104
On May 20, a Times news story is based on the testimony of police lieutenant Roy E. Blick. The headline is:
INQUIRY BY SENATE ON PERVERTS ASKED
Hill and Wherry Study Hears There Are 3,500 Deviates in Government Agencies
- A Senate investigation of alleged homosexuals in the Executive Branch of the Government was recommended unanimously today by a Senate Appropriation subcommittee of ten members.
- Perverts are described by intelligence officers as poor security risks because of their vulnerability to blackmail.
- The inquiry was proposed on the basis of a private, preliminary study made by Senators Lister Hill, Democrat of Alabama, and Kenneth S. Wherry of Nebraska, the Republican floor leader, during which a Washington police vice officer said it was his "own judgment" that 3,500 perverts were employed in Government agencies.
- The officer, Lieut. Roy E. Blick, testified, it was disclosed this afternoon in the publication of a partial transcript of his evidence that he thought 300 to 400 of these persons were in the State Department.
"A Quick Guess," He Says
- This, he said at one point, was a "quick guess," in the sense that it was based upon his experience that arrested persons not connected' with the State Department sometimes would say:
- "Why don't you go get so-and-so and so-and-so? They all belong to the same clique."
- "By doing that," Lieutenant Blick added "their names were put on the list and they were catalogued as such, as the suspect of being such."
The story reports that "Senators Hill and Wherry called many witnesses in closed hearings," and each filed separate and differing reports on the implications of their finding:
- Both quoted a letter from Dr. R. H. Felix, Director of the National Institute of Mental Health, stating that the available data indicated that perhaps 4 per cent of the white male population of the country were "confirmed homosexuals."
Finds Deviates Everywhere
- "While corresponding data for females are lacking," Dr. Felix added, "the prevalence is probably about the same." The letter continued:
- "All available evidence indicates that homosexuality can be found in all parts of the country, both urban and rural, and in all walks of life. I have been unable to find any evidence whatsoever which indicates that homosexuality is more prevalent in the District of Columbia than in other sections of the country."
- Senator Hill's report stressed Dr. Felix's statement that homosexuality was no more prevalent in Government than elsewhere, and he proposed that one of the subjects of the investigation be that of medical treatment and rehabilitation.
- Senator Wherry, for his part, asserted that by Dr. Felix's "reasoning one could argue, but not very intelligently, that because there are an estimated 55,000 Communists in the United States the Federal Government should have a pro rata share, and that because there are a million criminals in the country none should complain if the Government has its share. "105
On May 22, the Times reports that Senate Republican leader Wherry had
- endorsed a move to hold secret hearings in the pending investigation of sex perversion among Federal employees.106
On June 15 a Times story is headlined:
Pervert Inquiry Ordered
- A Senate subcommittee was ordered today to investigate police reports that about 3,500 sex perverts hold Federal jobs, some of them in the State Department.
- The go ahead was given by the Committee on Expenditures in the Executive Department to its "super" investigating subcommittee. Authority for the inquiry has been given by the Senate.
- Heading the group will be Senator Clyde R. Hoey, Democrat of North Carolina. . . . He said that the new study would be "complete and thorough" and "the paramount objective is to protect the Government and the public interest."
- The subcommittee intends to make "every effort to obtain all of the pertinent facts," but it will not "transgress individual rights" or "subject any individual to ridicule," he asserted. Mr. Hoey further promised that he would not "allow this investigation to become a public spectacle."
- Senator Andrew F. Schoeppel, Republican of Kansas, was named to succeed Senator McCarthy on the panel. The latter has asserted that Communists, perverts and other security risks infest the State Department. He bowed out of the inquiry to avoid being in a position of judging his own accusations.
- Senator Margaret Chase Smith, Republican of Maine, another regular member of the investigating group, did not ask to be disqualified and will serve. Other members of the panel are Senators John L. McClellan of Arkansas, James O. Eastland of Mississippi and Herbert R. O'Conor of Maryland, Democrats, and Karl E. Mundt, Republican of South Dakota.107
On June 17, the Times reports that among 130 State Department employees sent home from Germany as "questionable security risks" since the previous July, there were "two confessed homosexuals, ... and others of dubious character or connections...."108
On July 13, the Times reports that the House of Representatives, by a vote of 327 to 14, had passed a bill designed to permit department and agency heads to deal with persons who are bad security risks because they drink too much, talk too ~much, are perverts or have similar failings.109
Employment of Homosexuals and Other Sex Perverts in Government
On December 15, 1950, the Senate Committee on Expenditures in the Executive Departments issues an interim report on "Employment of Homosexuals and Other Sex Perverts in Government," a maior document of the 1950s antihomosexual witch-hunt era.113
On December 16, the New York Times headlines a page 3 story on the report:
FEDERAL VIGILANCE ON PERVERTS ASKED
Senate Group Says They Must Be Kept Out of Government Because of Security Risk
- A Senate investigating group labeled sexual perverts today as dangerous security risks and demanded strict and careful screening to keep them off the Government payroll. It said that many Federal agencies had not taken "adequate steps to get these people out of Government." ...
- Stressing the risk that the Government takes in employing a sex deviate or keeping one on the payroll, the subcommittee said:
- "The lack of emotional stability which is found in most sex perverts, and the weakness of their moral fiber, makes them susceptible to the blandishments of foreign espionage agents."
Called 'Prey to Blackmailers'
- The report also noted that perverts were "easy prey to the blackmailer." It said that Communist and Nazi agents had sought to get secret Government data from Federal employes "by threatening to expose their abnormal sex activities."
The subcommittee criticized the State Department particularly for "mishandling" ninety-one cases of homosexualism among its employes~ It said that many of the, employes were allowed to resign "for personal reasons," and that no steps were taken to bar them from other Government jobs ....
Tightening Laws Urged
- The committee said that it was unable to determine accurately how many perverts now held Federal jobs. It added, however, that since Jan. I, 1947, a total of 4,954 cases had been processed, including 4,380 in the military services and 574 on Federal civilian payrolls ....
- In addition to strict enforcement of Civil Service rules about firing perverts, the subcommittee recommended tightening of the District of Columbia laws on sexual perversion, closer liaison between the Federal agencies and the police and a thorough inquiry by all divisions of the Government into all reasonable complaints of perverted sexual activity.114
On March 28, 1951, the Times, in a front-page story, reports:
- The State Department has dismissed a vice consul in Hong Kong for being an admitted homosexual and having accepted up to $ 10,000 in bribes to speed the issuance of visas ....
- Three other members of the United States Consulate in Hong Kong were discharged at the same time for homosexuality. In conformity with the practice for such dismissals the State Department did not make their names public. It was stated, however, that they were not involved in the "visa irregularities."l1G
On April 28, 1951, the Times reports a statement by FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover:
- Relative to what he described as "sex deviates in government service," Mr. Hoover said that since April I, 1950, his agency had identified 406 in this category.116
On October 5, the Times reports:
- The State Department disclosed today that four employes in Korea had resigned after having been accused of homosexual acts.117
On December 20, the Times reports a "lie detector" being employed by at least four government departments in loyalty investigations lito test men and women involved in 'sensitive' iobs related to national security."
- In general the lie detector is used by the Federal agencies particularly to establish whether a person has been arrested, is a sexual pervert or associates with Communists or other subversive persons.118
On January 14, 16, and 21, 1952, iournalist Drew Pearson's private diary refers to unsubstantiated rumors, circulating among Congressmen, the FBI, and the White House, of Senator Joseph McCarthy's being involved in homosexual activity.121
On June 26, 1952, the Times reports that testimony before a closed Senate committee showed that the State Department had discharged two employes last year on charges of homosexuality and that 117 others had quit ~hen confronted with the charges. The State Department has a total of about 19,000 United States employes and hires about 9,000 foreigners to staff embassies.122
On August 31, the Times reports:
NAVY OUSTS SEX OFFENDER
Accused Officer Resigns-24 Sailors Also Being Dismissed
- BOSTON ... -A Navy spokesman said today an officer allegedly involved in homosexuality had been relieved of his ship command and had submitted his resignation from the service.
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- ↑ Reprinted and adapted from Jonathan Ned Katz, Gay American History: Lesbians and Gay Men in the U.S.A. (NY: Crowell, 1976), pages 91-???