Legal History

With law firm's help, gay-rights advocate collects historical documents reflecting government bias

Today the federal government is banned from firing employees because they are gay.

But before 1975, government policy held that being gay was a justification for firing. Seeking to shine a light on the history of bias, gay-rights advocate Charles Francis has used public records requests to collect hundreds of documents discussing the government’s anti-gay policies, the New York Times reports.

Francis got help with his “archive activism” from pro bono lawyers at McDermott, Will & Emery. “Gay and lesbian history is often ignored or deleted,” Francis told the Times. “It didn’t happen.”

The story highlights one document written in November 1964 in which a staffer with the Civil Service Commission considered whether a gay person could be rehabilitated through marriage into a trustworthy civil servant. The memo, written in response to a question, said it’s possible, but such people are rarely allowed to keep their jobs.

“Some feel that ‘once a homo, always a homo,’ ” the staffer 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.”

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