Executive Order 10450

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Executive Order 10450
Security Requirements for Government Employment
Seal of the President of the United States
TypeExecutive order
Executive Order number10450
Signed byDwight D. Eisenhower on 27 April 1953
  • Expanded the security criteria for government jobs
  • Made heads of departments and agencies responsible for review of personnel and applicant backgrounds
  • Added several reasons for job termination, including sexual orientation
  • Mandated re-appraisal of previously-reviewed background checks.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued Executive Order 10450 on April 27, 1953. Effective May 27, 1953, it revoked President Truman's Executive Order 9835 of 1947, and dismantled its Loyalty Review Board program. Instead it charged the heads of federal agencies and the Civil Service Commission, supported by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), with investigating federal employees to determine whether they posed security risks. It expanded the definitions and conditions used to make such determinations. The order contributed to the ongoing Lavender scare of the mid-1950s, barring thousands of lesbian and gay applicants from government jobs.

Comparison to the previous Executive Order 9835[edit]

Previously, the criteria used to define a security risk were largely political, that is, affiliation with suspect organizations or a clear demonstration of disloyalty. Executive Order 10450 added more general estimations of character, stability, and reliability. Its language was broad: "Any criminal, infamous, dishonest, immoral, or notoriously disgraceful conduct, habitual use of intoxicants to excess, drug addiction, or sexual perversion." At the same time, the executive order's provisions contained advice on evaluating character problems, as in its provision that the medical valuation of a psychological problem should show "due regard to the transient or continuing effect of the illness."[1][2]

Astronomer Frank Kameny (pictured in 2010) was fired from his government job in 1957 for being gay. He would later sue the government in a case that went to the US Supreme court and would found the gay rights Mattachine Society.[3]

Under the order thousands of lesbian and gay applicants were barred from federal employment and over 5,000 federal employees were fired under suspicions of being homosexual. It came as a part of the US "Lavender Scare" witch hunts which contributed to and complemented the McCarthyist Red Scare.[4] From 1947 to 1961 the number of firings based on sexual orientation were far greater than those for membership in the Communist party.[5] It was not until 1973 that a federal judge ruled that a person's sexual orientation alone could not be the sole reason for termination from federal employment, and not until 1975 that the United States Civil Service Commission announced that they would consider applications by gays and lesbians on a case by case basis.[citation needed]

Without explicitly referring to homosexuality, the executive order responded to several years of charges that the presence of homosexual employees in the State Department posed blackmail risks. Attorney General Herbert Brownell Jr. explained that the new order was designed to encompass both loyalty and security risks and he differentiated between the two: "Employees could be a security risk and still not be disloyal or have any traitorous thoughts, but it may be that their personal habits are such that they might be subject to blackmail by people who seek to destroy the safety of our country."[6] The executive order had the effect of banning gay men and lesbians from working for any agency of the federal government.[7]

Other aspects of the order[edit]

The press recognized the revolutionary nature of the new executive order. The Washington Post said that it established not a loyalty test but a "suitability test." Some in government referred to their new "integrity-security" program. Some of those the press expected to be excluded from federal employment included "a person who drinks too much," "an incorrigible gossip," "homosexuals," and "neurotics."[6]

Truman's earlier Executive Order 9835 applied only to the State Department and select military agencies. Executive Order 10450 extended to all employees of the federal government, notably the armed forces. Anyone enlisting was required to sign a statement swearing that he had no connections with an organization deemed subversive. Joining such an organization at any time during military service was grounds for immediate discharge from the military.[8] According to scholars, since at least as early as 1960, Executive Order 10450 was also applied to ban transgender individuals from serving in the United States military.[9][10]

Repealing the ban on radical sympathizers[edit]

The U.S. Supreme Court in Cole v. Young (1956) restricted the application of the executive order. In this case of a food and drug inspector for the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare who had been dismissed for his association with radicals, the Court faulted the executive order for its failure to define "national security" and for other ambiguities. It faulted its application in the case of a position not clearly related to national security. It noted conflicts with statutes like the Veterans' Preference Act.[11]

Repealing the order[edit]

In 1975, the U.S. Civil Service Commission ended a ban on gays and lesbians in the federal civil service.[12] In 1977, the State Department lifted a policy barring gays from employment in the Foreign Service. Around the same time, the IRS ended its policy of requiring "homosexual education and charity groups to publicly state that homosexuality is a 'sickness, disturbance, or diseased pathology'" before obtaining section 501 tax-exempt status.[13]

The order's language restricting national security access based on sexual orientation was also repealed in 1995 when President Bill Clinton signed Executive Order 12968, which stated that "The United States Government does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or sexual orientation in granting access to classified information." The order's language concerning employment and sexual orientation was also repealed when Clinton signed Executive Order 13087 in 1998.

The order was explicitly repealed in 2017, when President Obama signed Executive Order 13764, the last of his Administration.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ National Archives: Executive Order 10450, Section 8(1)iv, accessed November 29, 2010.
  2. ^ Executive Order 10450: Security Requirements for Government Employment. File Unit: Executive Orders: 10441 - 10460, 1862 - 2016. 27 April 1953. Retrieved June 16, 2016.
  3. ^ Geen, Jessica (12 October 2011). "Gay rights campaigner Frank Kameny dies aged 86". PinkNews.
  4. ^ "An interview with David K. Johnson author of The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government". press.uchicago.edu. The University of Chicago. 2004. The Lavender Scare helped fan the flames of the Red Scare. In popular discourse, communists and homosexuals were often conflated. Both groups were perceived as hidden subcultures with their own meeting places, literature, cultural codes, and bonds of loyalty. Both groups were thought to recruit to their ranks the psychologically weak or disturbed. And both groups were considered immoral and godless. Many people believed that the two groups were working together to undermine the government.
  5. ^ Sears, Brad; Hunter, Nan D.; Mallory, Christy (September 2009). Documenting Discrimination on the Basis of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in State Employment (PDF). Los Angeles: The Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Law and Public Policy at UCLA School of Law. p. 5-3. From 1947 to 1961, more than 5,000 allegedly homosexual federal civil servants lost their jobs in the purges for no reason other than sexual orientation, and thousands of applicants were also rejected for federal employment for the same reason. During this period, more than 1,000 men and women were fired for suspected homosexuality from the State Department alone—a far greater number than were dismissed for their membership in the Communist party. The Cold War and anti-communist efforts provided the setting in which a sustained attack upon gay men and lesbians took place. The history of this 'Lavender Scare' by the federal government has been extensively documented by historian David Johnson. Johnson has demonstrated that during this era government officials intentionally engaged in campaigns to associate homosexuality with Communism: 'homosexual' and 'pervert' became synonyms for 'Communist' and 'traitor.' LGBT people were treated as a national security threat, demanding the attention of Congress, the courts, statehouses, and the media.
  6. ^ a b David K. Johnson, The Lavender Scare: the Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004), 123-4. Eisenhower in his memoirs written years later explicitly referenced "instability, alcoholism, homosexuality."
  7. ^ 04/27/2012 3:48 pm EDT (2012-04-27). "April 27, 1953: For LGBT Americans, a Day That Lives in Infamy | Josh Howard". Huffingtonpost.com. Retrieved 2015-06-25.
  8. ^ Defense Department Form 98, Revision 1 June 1959.
  9. ^ "Executive Orders". National Archives. August 15, 2016.
  10. ^ "Our History". Archived from the original on January 26, 2019. Retrieved January 26, 2019.
  11. ^ Cole v. Young, 351 U.S. 536] (1956).
  12. ^ Donald P. Haider-Markel, "Gay and Lesbian Rights" in Social Issues in America: An Encyclopedia, Vol. 2 (ed. James Ciment: Routledge, 2006), p. 739.
  13. ^ Donald P. Haider-Markel, "Gay and Lesbian Rights" in Social Issues in America: An Encyclopedia, Vol. 2 (ed. James Ciment: Routledge, 2006), p. 742.
  14. ^ "Executive Order 13764: Amending the Civil Service Rules, Executive Order 13488, and Executive Order 13467 To Modernize the Executive Branch-Wide Governance Structure and Processes for Security Clearances, Suitability and Fitness for Employment, and Credentialing, and Related Matters" (PDF). Federal Register. Retrieved 2017-08-05.

External links[edit]