“Uniquely Nasty: The U.S. Government’s War on Gays” has been released!

Uniquely Nasty

As the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to rule on same-sex marriage, Yahoo News presents a new 30-minute documentary based on the research of the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C., “Uniquely Nasty: The U.S. Government’s War on Gays,” reported and narrated by chief investigative correspondent Michael Isikoff. The film explores a dark and little-known chapter in America’s recent political past, when gays and lesbians were barred from working for the federal government and the FBI, through its “sex deviates” program, secretly collected hundreds of thousands of files on the sex lives of American citizens.

“Uniquely Nasty” includes never-before-seen government memos by legendary FBI director J. Edgar Hoover (read by George Takei) and John Steele, a top lawyer for the U.S. Civil Service Commission (read by Matt Bomer).

Along with the film, Yahoo News is releasing for the first time in their entirety a cache of long-secret government memos that have been uncovered in recent years by the Mattachine Society, working with a team of lawyers from the firm of McDermott Will & Emery. Also included in this package are stories about the history of the FBI’s “sex deviates” program; a profile of Robert Gray, a gay Republican lobbyist and Washington powerbroker who secretly lived in fear of the FBI; a story about how Watergate hero Archibald Cox, in his days as John F. Kennedy’s solicitor general, sought to bar gays from federal employment; and the role of Advise and Consent in intimidating gays in politics, such as former congressman Barney Frank, from leaving the closet.

Watch the documentary

(text adapted from Yahoo News)

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Coming soon: “Uniquely Nasty: The U.S. Government’s War on Gays”

The premiere return episode of Yahoo’s documentary series Viewfinder will feature the archive activism of the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C.

Presented on the eve of SCOTUS’ decision on same-sex marriage equality, “Uniquely Nasty: The U.S. Government’s War on Gays” is a moving account of 60 years of federal persecution of gay Americans.

The film is a historical investigation into a dark chapter of America’s recent past, exploring new details about J. Edgar Hoover’s “sex deviates” program and the blackmail threat that led to the suicide of a U.S. senator.

The documentary features reporting by chief investigative correspondent Michael Isikoff, and the voices of Matt Bomer and George Takei as J. Edgar Hoover.

“Uniquely Nasty” will premiere on Yahoo Screen on Monday, June 22.

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Barney Frank’s stand against DADT


When Senior Chief Petty Officer Timothy R. McVeigh faced dishonorable discharge from the Navy in 1998 over incriminating evidence of homosexuality, then-Representative Barney Frank wrote this letter, recently uncovered by MSDC, to President Clinton in protest:

Those concerned with gay and lesbian rights—me included—would be severely disappointed by such an outrageous action. Throwing this sailor with an unblemished record out of the Navy because other people invaded the privacy he sought to protect would finally convince us that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is simply an equally homophobic version of the old anti-gay policy.

McVeigh filed suit against the Secretary of Defense on January 15, 1998, and the Federal District Judge Stanley Sporkin granted a preliminary injunction barring the Navy from discharging McVeigh. At the heart of the case was whether the Navy complied with its own “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Pursue” policy.

Sporkin wrote that McVeigh never did “openly express his homosexuality in a way that compromised this ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy.” A Navy paralegal called AOL to uncover the identity of the member “boysrch”—a user with the marital status “gay” in his AOL member profile, known to be a sailor. When the paralegal failed to identify himself to AOL as a Navy official, and failed to obtain a warrant to get information from AOL, the Navy “violated the very essence of ‘[Don’t Ask,] Don’t Tell, Don’t Pursue’ by launching a search and destroy mission.”

While the Navy ultimately settled without admitting culpability, allowing McVeigh to retire with full military benefits, the case was a victory for gay rights. The case underscored the failure of DADT to protect gays serving in the military, even those who were discreet in pursuing their personal lives. It also had implications for privacy rights, which Sporkin wrote were violated when the Navy improperly obtained information from AOL.

The irony that the Navy ruthlessly (and in the end, illegally) investigated and humiliated Timothy R. McVeigh over his sexuality, while the Army had willfully ignored the racism and political extremism of the future Oklahoma City bomber Timothy J. McVeigh, was not lost on contemporary commentators. Frank Rich wrote:

What does it say about American fairness and justice—let alone our priorities in national security–that the military looked the other way at [Timothy J.] McVeigh’s ostentatious public psychosis while it torments the second, exemplary [Timothy R.] McVeigh for the ”crime” of having a private life that should be nobody’s business but his own?

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“Sounds of Silence”—The Reagan Administration and the AIDS crisis


Why did Ronald Reagan wait seven long, painful years before addressing the AIDS crisis? He became president in 1981, roughly the beginning of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, but did not mention it in public until 1987.

In “Sounds of Silence” in POZ, Charles Francis discusses with Trenton Straube the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C.’s efforts to answer that question.

Earlier this year, MSDC uncovered documents revealing that Rock Hudson, dying of AIDS, asked the Reagan White House to help him see a doctor in France. The administration refused.

Read the article

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Untold Stories: Recovering the Histories of LGBT Civil Servants

In this feature by McDermott Will & Emery, MSDC President Charles Francis and Partners Lisa Linsky and Paul Thompson talk about the collaborative effort that has uncovered documents detailing the U.S. government’s historical discrimination against LGBT employees and led to an amicus brief in connection with the same-sex marriage cases now before the U.S. Supreme Court.

“This is a defining issue of our generation—whether all Americans will be treated equally.” says Paul Thompson. “To be a part of this is really a proud moment for me, and I think for this law firm.”

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“The preferred terms were ‘pervert’ and ‘deviate’…”

Washington Post Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Philip Kennicott on the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C.’s amicus brief in the same-sex marriage cases at the Supreme Court today: “an insider’s look at how the fear and hatred of gay people was codified, disseminated, defended and adapted after homosexuals were officially banned from government service by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.”


Read the article

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“History must never be erased”

Listen to Charles Francis, President of the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C., talk with activist Mike Rogers on The Michelangelo Signorile Show about how MSDC is at the center of the past, present, and future of the LGBT civil rights movement.

“History must never be erased,” Francis tells Rogers. With documents on LGBT political history still sealed or hidden, the work of the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C. is as important as ever. “We need to show these documents… This discrimination was rooted in… animus, bigotry, and homophobia. Once everyone agrees that’s what been happening the past 60 years, then we can correct some of these laws that are just unconstitutional.”

Even as reactionaries attempt to roll back progress toward achieving LGBT civil equality, Francis notes the “tremendous strength” of the gay rights movement in the millennial generation.

Rogers includes clips of Frank Kameny and Barbara Gittings speaking about the gay rights movement.

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