Lavender scare

The "lavender scare" was a moral panic during the mid-20th century about homosexual people in the United States government and their mass dismissal from government service. It contributed to and paralleled the anti-communist campaign known as McCarthyism and the Second Red Scare.[1] Gay men and lesbians were said to be national security risks and communist sympathizers, which led to the call to remove them from state employment.[2] It was thought that gay people were more susceptible to being manipulated, which could pose a threat to the country.[3]

Joseph McCarthy and Roy Cohn during the Army–McCarthy hearings

The Lavender Scare – the federal government's official response to both a visible lesbian and gay community and a perceived homosexual menace – normalized persecution of homosexuals through bureaucratic institutionalization of homophobia. Former U.S. Senator Alan K. Simpson has written:

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.[4]


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