Executive Order 10450

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President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued Executive Order 10450 on April 27, 1953. Effective May 27, 1953, it revoked President Truman's 1947 Executive Order 9835 and dismantled its Loyalty Review Board program. Instead it charged the heads of federal agencies and the Office of Personnel Management, 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.

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]

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."[3] The executive order had the effect of banning gay men and lesbians from working for any agency of the federal government.[4] 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.[5]

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."[3]

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.[6]

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.[7]

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  1. ^ National Archives: Executive Order 10450, Section 8(1)iv, accessed November 29, 2010
  2. ^ "Executive Order 10450: Security Requirements for Government Employment". Retrieved June 16, 2016. 
  3. ^ 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."
  4. ^ 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. 
  5. ^ "Today In History: Eisenhower Signs Executive Order 10450". Box Turtle Bulletin. Retrieved 2015-06-25. 
  6. ^ Defense Department Form 98, Revision 1 June 1959
  7. ^ Justia.com: Cole v. Young, 351 U.S. 536, accessed November 29, 2010

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