MSDC Wins District Court Victory

U.S. District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth Orders Department of Justice and FBI to Expand Searches; Review and Release More Documents Related to Eisenhower “sexual perversion” Executive Order

July 31—In a lawsuit filed last year by The Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C., U.S. District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth has ordered the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to dramatically expand their search, review and release procedures which could result in the release of thousands of additional documents relating to President Eisenhower ‘s 1953 “sexual perversion order” known as Executive Order 10450. The Eisenhower order identified “sexual perversion” as sufficient cause to investigate and terminate actual and suspected homosexual employees of the federal government, leading to thousands of terminations in 1953 alone. The case, captioned, Mattachine Society of Washington, DC vs. U.S. Department of Justice was filed in 2016 under the Freedom of Information Act by the Society’s pro bono legal counsel, the international law firm McDermott Will & Emery.

“It is time for the government to release these historic FBI and DOJ documents that launched decades of discrimination against LGBT Americans”, said Mattachine Society of Washington, DC President Charles Francis. “Thousands of LGBT Americans were ruthlessly investigated, interrogated and fired because of this Order, and historians still do not know the full extent of its implementation and enforcement by such officials as then-Assistant Attorney General, Chief Justice Warren Burger, “ Francis said.

It is estimated that 7,000 to 10,000 federal employees were terminated for homosexuality in the 1950s alone.

“Our special thanks go to the legal team at McDermott Will & Emery who brought professionalism and passion to this litigation which dates back five years to our original Freedom of Information Act requests that were originally ignored or rebuffed by the government,” Francis said.

Judge Lamberth wrote in his Opinion, “The FBI’s search was not adequate… and the FBI’s response fails to demonstrate that their search was reasonably calculated to uncover all of the relevant documents….The Court finds it nearly impossible to believe that a search for every permutation of the name of the man who was charged with carrying out EO 10450, the “overseer” Warren Burger,… yielded zero responsive documents.” Lamberth writes: “It strains credulity.”

Judge Lamberth cited as an example of the inadequate search the thousands of files tagged with the search word “pervert”. Lamberth wrote, “…the government points to the fact that ‘the search term ‘pervert’ alone returned over 5,500 Sentinel ECF hits, “and sifting through these hits to determine which ones are responsive and which are not would be unduly burdensome.” Lamberth disagreed, ordering the FBI to review these documents or estimate the number of additional hours, resources or funds that make these searches rise to the level of being an undue burden.”

Mattachine Director and Treasurer Pate Felts said, “ Now that the Department of Justice has declared “sexual orientation” is not protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act for workplace discrimination, we believe the brutal evidentiary history of federal discrimination is even more important for the legal community, lawmakers and the public to review and understand. History calls out for the release of all the Eisenhower “sexual perversion” papers,” Felts said.

Judge Lamberth’s Opinion emphasized the importance of protecting the privacy interests of all parties involved in these documents, “while also allowing the public to better study the effects of EO 10450 on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender federal employees who were surveilled, harassed and terminated under this program and others like it”.

The Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C. is dedicated to “archive activism”, conducting original archival research and educational programs that focus on LGBT legal, political and policy history often sealed in government vaults, if not already destroyed by government agencies. The original Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C. was the first major LGBT civil rights organization in Washington, D.C. The Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C. is organized and approved for charitable and educational purposes as a 501 (c) (3) non-profit corporation in the District of Columbia.

Contact: Charles Francis, President