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Clinton Issued Order Letting Gays Get Security Clearances 16 Years Ago Today

On August 5, 1995 President Bill Clinton signed an Executive Order that established uniform standards for granting security clearances and prohibited the government from denying clearances on the basis of sexual orientation, Box Turtle Bulletin’s Jim Burroway notes. Until then, federal agencies were reluctant to issue clearances to gay people on the assumption that they were “at risk of being black mailed or otherwise compromised.”

The prohibitive policy originated from President Dwight Eisenhower’s Executive Oder 10450, which tasked the government with investigating federal employees and delineated specific prohibited behaviors — like “intoxicants to excess, drug addiction, or sexual perversion” — that could keep Americans from obtaining sensitive government positions. As David Johnson explains in The Lavender Scare, as a result of the order, “national security would [now] require not only political loyalty but also proper morality.” Eisenhower himself clarified in his personal papers that this new understanding of morality would exclude members of the LGBT community. “Many loyal Americans, by reason of instability, alcoholism, homosexuality, or previous tendencies to associates with Communist-front groups, are unintentionally security risks,” he wrote. Over 10,000 gay and lesbian employees were forced out of their jobs during the 1950s and 60s as a result of the policy.

Eisenhower’s order was lifted in 1975, but Clinton went a step further, adding “sexual orientation to the non-discrimination clause.” A screen shot of the Associated Press story:

Interestingly, Clinton’s actions were denounced by the very same groups who are still fighting against LGBT equality today. The Family Research Council’s Robert Maginnis wrote, “in all healthy societies, homosexuality is recognized as a pathology with very serious implications for a person’s behavior. … Even more importantly for security concerns, this is a behavior that is associated with a lot of anti-security markers such as drug and alcohol abuse, promiscuity and violence.”

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A new documentary about government discrimination against gays and lesbians is currently in production. Watch the trailer here.