Thursday, December 19, 2013

"Records of Rights" in Rubenstein Collection at National Archives details the sobering history of gay rights

Today, I visited the National Archives in Washington DC, specifically to see the David M. Rubenstein Gallery and the Records of Rights.

There was an interactive panel, set up in the manner of a tablet computer, near the entrance to the exhibit that covered many areas of individual rights, including rights to privacy and sexuality. The pamphlet from the Archives calls this 17-foot exhibit "A Place at the Table". 
The exhibit gives sobering history of the rights of LGBT people, or to the fundamental right to adult sexual privacy.  The idea is introduced with the banner "We the (Straight) People." It notes that right after World War II, panic over the “Red Scare” set in, and theories developed that homosexuals were morally or psychologically weak and therefore security risks.  It notes that President Eisenhower signed an executive order banning gays from federal employment in 1953, on the basis of sexual orientation alone, without reference to conduct (foreshadowing the debate on the military ban forty years later). 
The exhibit shows two immigration cases, Qurioz v. Neely (1961), in which Quiroz lost a court case in which she could deported as a lesbian for a “psychopathic personality”.  The Supreme Court upheld a similar view in 1967 in Boutilier v. INS. Check the Record of Rights link here. The link for Boutilier is here.  See a discussion at the University of Richmond here. If courts were agreeing with shallow notions of homosexuality as "psychopathic", my 1961 expulsion from William and Mary becomes more understanable. 
The exhibit also detailed Bowers v. Hardwick (1986) and Lawrence v. Texas (2003), emphasizing the idea of self-ownership in the Texas decision/

The Records of Rights also has a poster on the Cuban Refugee incident in 1980, and the "political fallout" when it became known that a large percentage of the refugees were said to be homosexual.
Photography is not permitted at the exhibit, but all the major documents from the Rubenstein collection seem to be online.   

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