Colman Domingo
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How Astronomer Frank Kameny Fought Antigay Bias in The Lavender Scare

lavender scare

Produced and directed by Josh Howard, The Lavender Scare is a new documentary on PBS about the U.S. government’s continual fight to oppress and remove LGBTQ employees and one man’s fight to keep his job. This film is particularly timely with a new  bill from Democrats in Congress that aims to bring these unjustified firings and harassment to light.

The film is based on the book by David K. Johnson and is narrated by Glenn Close, with Cynthia Nixon, Zachary Quinto, T.R. Knight, and David Hyde Pierce also lending their voices throughout. Interviews with those who were targeted as well as those in charge of the persecution are woven into the narrative as The Lavender Scare explores the effects of President Eisenhower’s declaration that queer men and women were security threats to America and needed to be treated as such. This drove thousands of LGBTQ workers underground, and countless people lost jobs and their futures, with many driven to suicide by the hopelessness and never-ending harassment. However, this rage eventually led to the gay liberation movement, as those in the community banded together to fight back.

In the clip below, Frank Kameny, a Harvard alumnus and an astronomer who worked with the U.S. Army, speaks about his experience and how he refused to be fired without a fight. He changed the narrative from one focused on the morality of homosexuality to an issue of discrimination. This was key in the slow but eventual change of mind-set that led to President Clinton ending the ban on security clearances in 1995. However, it’s clear from 2019 Congress's second attempt at passing a bill to bring justice to the victims -- called the LOVE Act -- that we still have a long way to go.


More information about where to watch The Lavender Scare can be found here.

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