1964 Memo Reveals Feds' Rampant Zeal in Firing Gays

'Once a homo always a homo,' document says

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted May 21, 2014 7:52 AM CDT

(Newser) – Lyndon Johnson may have signed the Civil Rights Act, but when it came to gay people, his administration was more than ready to discriminate. In a 1964 memo, revealed today by the New York Times, an administration official outlines just how dedicated the government was to rooting out homosexuals. "We set homosexuality apart from other forms of immoral conduct," Civil Service Commission staffer John Steele wrote. While official policy allowed gay people to stay on if there was "evidence of rehabilitation," Steele said that in practice, such evidence was never found.

"Some feel that 'once a homo, always a homo,'" he wrote. "Our tendency to 'lean over backwards' to rule against a homosexual is simply a manifestation of the revulsion which homosexuality inspires in the normal person." Dwight Eisenhower made it official policy to fire gay people when he took office, and that didn't change until 1975. The memos provide a telling look at how the government viewed that policy. "These memorandums were not meant for the outside world to see," says a gay rights activist collecting such documents. "It's a tide of human indignation."

This Jan. 12, 1966 file photo shows President Lyndon Baines Johnson giving his State of the Union address on Capitol Hill.
This Jan. 12, 1966 file photo shows President Lyndon Baines Johnson giving his State of the Union address on Capitol Hill.   (AP Photo, File)
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