The Lavender Scare, a film about a campaign by the federal government to fire queer employees, will debut on PBS June 18 at 9 PM ET.
Produced and directed by Josh Howard and based on the book by David K. Johnson, the film is narrated by three-time Tony winner Glenn Close. Also featured are the voices of Cynthia Nixon, Zachary Quinto, T. R. Knight, and David Hyde Pierce.
In 1953, at the height of the Cold War and Senator Joe McCarthy’s campaign against suspected Communists, President Eisenhower declared gay men and lesbians to be a threat to the security of the country and unfit for government service. Over the next four decades, tens of thousands of government workers were intimidated, harassed, and investigated. But the actions of the government had an unintended effect, stirring outrage in the community and helping to ignite the gay rights movement.
In 1957, after being questioned about his homosexuality, a Harvard-trained astronomer working with the U.S. Army’s Map Service became the first person to fight his dismissal. Frank Kameny reframed the issue as one of civil rights, and his attempts to regain his job evolved into a lifelong battle for the rights of LGBTQ people until his death in 2011.
The Lavender Scare features interviews with Kameny and others who were targeted, as well as authors and government officials responsible for investigating federal employees.