LGBTQIA+ Federal Employment in the Records at the National Archives
Please note: Although some of these records have been digitized and made available online, there are many records that are only available in paper or microfilm format at National Archives and Records (NARA) locations.
Members of the LGBTQIA+ community have served in the federal civil service since the mid-19th century. Walt Whitman is one of the most notable examples.
Beginning in the late 1940s, the federal government made a concerted effort to purge the civil service of homosexuals, commonly referred to as the "Lavender Scare." This culminated with the issuance of Executive Order 10450 on April 27, 1953, by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
The effects of this Executive Order continued well into the 1970s. The U.S. Civil Service Commission ended the ban on homosexuals in federal civil service in 1975. In 1977, the Department of State ended its ban within the Foreign Service. President Bill Clinton's 1995 Executive Order 12968 ended discrimination based on sexual orientation in granting access to classified information. Additionally, Clinton’s 1998 Executive Order 13087 ended the limitations regarding federal employment and sexual orientation. In 2017, President Barack Obama explicitly repealed Executive Order 10450 with Executive Order 13764.
The holdings of the National Archives are a rich source of material on the Lavender Scare.
Walt Whitman was a poet, essayist, and journalist. During the Civil War, Whitman worked part-time in the Department of the Army's paymaster office and volunteered as a nurse in army hospitals. Later he would become a clerk for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and worked in the Attorney General's office, where he interviewed former Confederate soldiers for potential Presidential pardons.
Dismissed from his job as an astronomer in the U.S. Army's Map Service due to his homosexuality, Kameny became a leading activist for LGBTQIA+ rights.
Record Group 276: Records of the U.S. Courts of Appeals, 1891 - 1992: Franklin Edward Kameny v. Honorable Wilber M. Brucker, Secretary of the Army, et al., Appellee.
Record Group 267: Records of the Supreme Court of the United States, 1772 - 2007: Petition for Writ of Certiorari - Number 676 - Kameny v. Brucker.
John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, The JFK Library Archives: An Inside Look, "Frank Kameny, JFK, & the Case for LGBTQ+ Rights" by Stacey Flores Chandler, Reference Archivist, June 2, 2021.
In 1953, Executive Order 10450 was signed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. This executive action was the culmination of a period, called the “Lavender Scare,” that coincided with the communist "Red Scare." During the Lavender Scare, members of the LGBTQIA+ community were deemed a threat to national security. The Executive Order barred homosexuals from working in the federal government, causing an untold number of people to lose their jobs.
Record Group 11: General Records of the United States Government, 1778 - 2006), Executive Orders, 1862 - 2006: Executive Order 10450: Security Requirements for Government Employment, 04/27/1953.
Prologue Magazine (Summer 2016, Vol. 48, No. 2) by Judith Adkins, "These People Are Frightened to Death: Congressional Investigations and the Lavender Scare."
Individual Federal Employees
Records of individual employees dismissed from the federal workforce for being a part of the LGBTQIA+ community are found at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, MO:
- Civilian personnel records for individuals who left federal employment 70 or more years ago.
- Civilian personnel records for individuals who left federal employment more recently (Access to these records is restricted under the Privacy Act of 1974 (P. L. 93-579) and only limited types of information from these records are releasable to non-authorized users under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)).