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First White House Protest: The U.S. government’s anti-gay witch hunts helped ignite the gay rights movement years before the Stonewall riots. This 1965 picket in front of the White House in Washington D.C. was the first demonstration of its kind.
Senator Joseph McCarthy ignited the Red Scare with his claim that Communists had infiltrated the government, the news and entertainment industries and academia. But the Lavender Scare, the fear of a spreading homosexual menace, would become an even more powerful political weapon.
Gay Man Arrested: The government encouraged local law enforcement agencies to aggressively pursue, harass and arrest gay men and lesbians who were breaking no laws at all. Even private homes were not off limits to surprise raids by police.
Frank Kameny Picketing: Frank Kameny leads a picket line in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia on July 4, 1965. Forty activists joined the protest, making it (at the time) the largest public demonstration for LGBT rights in world history.
Headline: The U.S. government’s witch hunt of gay men and lesbians was front page news in the 1940s and 1950s. But as the firings continued well into the 1980s and ‘90s they would draw less and less attention.
Two women photographed in the 1950s.