About this project
UPDATE….We have reached our goal! The enthusiastic support you’ve shown for this project has been amazing. But… don‘t stop now! The money we have raised will help us finish editing, but some big expenses still lie ahead – especially, licensing the archival film and still pictures we need to tell this story. The more funding we have, the better the material will be. So please continue to spread the word! Together, we will make The Lavender Scare a film in which we can all take pride!
Sixty years ago, on April 27, 1953, the President of the United States signed an Executive Order directing all agencies of the federal government to fire any employee found to be gay or lesbian.
The mass firings that began in the 1950s and continued for four decades were as aggressive and vicious a witch hunt as any in American history. Thousands and thousands of people lost their jobs. Career were ruined. Lives were destroyed – some ending in suicide.
Shocked to hear about this? I was too. And I was shocked to discover how the actions of the government so long ago continue to haunt LGBT people today -- particularly in the 29 states in which it is still completely legal to fire employees simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
I first learned about all this through the ground-breaking book The Lavender Scare by historian David K. Johnson, the first person to document the extent of the government's homophobic policy. I found the stories of the people who were caught up in the witch hunt to be fascinating and heartbreaking. I wanted to capture those stories on film before it was too late, so they could be preserved for history.
My team and I have completed interviews with many former federal employees who were hunted down and fired. We’ve filmed family members who only now understand what led to the mysterious suicides of their loved ones.
And we tracked down and interviewed high-ranking government officials responsible for formulating and executing the witch hunts. Listen to a security agent talk about the chilling tactics that were used against gay men and lesbians:
INFURIATING… BUT INSPIRING
The witch hunts of the 1950s and '60s stirred a sense of outrage and activism that helped ignite the gay rights movement, resulting in one of the nation’s first gay rights demonstrations. In 1965 – years before Stonewall -- a handful of brave men and women picketed the White House and demanded fair treatment by our government.
A central character in the film is Dr. Franklin Kameny, who was an astronomer working for the U.S. Army when he was summarily fired just because he was gay. But unlike the thousands before him, Frank challenged his dismissal. This film will be a tribute to Frank and the other early leaders of the movement, whose sacrifices and commitment made the world a better place for generations of LGBT people who followed.
The Lavender Scare will be the first film to document this compelling story. It will shed new light on the origins of the gay rights movement by filling in a missing chapter in the story of LGBT people in America.
EMPLOYMENT DISCRIMINATION IS NOT A THING OF THE PAST
There are 29 states in which employment discrimination against LGBT workers is still completely legal. People can be fired simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
A recent survey found that 81 percent of Americans believe that there are federal laws protecting LGBT people from employment discrimination. There aren't! The proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would do just that, has been stalled in Congress for years.
For LGBT people who face discrimination every day -- everything from being harassed on the job, to being denied promotions, to being fired for no reason other than who they are -- The Lavender Scare will make an important contribution to the ongoing discussion about fairness and equality in the workplace.
We have completed principal shooting thanks to grants from the Ford Foundation and other organizations who understand the importance of bringing this story to a mainstream audience. But people keep asking me, “what can I, as an individual, do to help?” Well, this is your chance. We need to raise a minimum of $50,000 right now to keep our edit room going and get the film ready for final production. There are many ways you can help:
- CONTRIBUTE MONEY
You’ll be making your voice heard in the ongoing struggle for fairness and equality, and you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you played an important role in getting this film produced. (Also, you’ll receive some fun stuff from us – check out our rewards!).
- HELP SPREAD THE WORD
We want more than just your money, really! Talk us up on Facebook. Get busy tweeting on Twitter. Let people know how much you care about this important project.
- TELL US YOUR STORY
Have you been a victim of job discrimination? Have you witnessed unfair treatment of colleagues? Have you participated in efforts to promote diversity and fairness in your workplace? We want to know about it! Tell us your story on our Wall of Pride. You'll be helping us build our case for the need to focus attention on the issue of workplace discrimination.
OUR SUCCESS DEPENDS ON YOU!
During my 23-year career at CBS News, primarily as a producer and executive editor of 60 Minutes, I learned what makes a good story and how to tell it. And joining me on this project is an accomplished team of documentary film makers who have even more experience. One of our executive producers, my former CBS colleague Betsy West, is a pro in the doc world and was most recently EP of the landmark PBS documentary about the women's movement, MAKERS: Women Who Make America. (You can see a full list of our team's credits here).
We’ve done our part. We have filmed compelling interviews with the people who lived through the Lavender Scare. We have gathered never-before-seen archival material. And we know the impact this film can have, particularly as a way to honor the achievements of past generations and demonstrate the need to remain vigilant about the issue of discrimination in the workplace.
Now, all we need is you. As activist and philanthropist Jim Hormel has said, “It is up to LGBT Americans and our allies to take the lead in preserving our history. If we don’t do it, who will?”
Josh Howard and The Lavender Scare team
Risks and challenges
We have completed filming, we've identified the archival film and still photos we want to use, and we’re now in the process of editing. Our remaining tasks are to create graphics, license the archival material, and finish editing and post production. The challenge we face is raising enough money to accomplish these goals. In addition to our Kickstarter campaign, we are continuing to solicit funds from foundations and other major backers such as the Ford Foundation, which is already a generous supporter.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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