The "Lavender Scare" refers to a witch hunt and the mass firings of homosexual people in the 1950s from the United States government. It contributed to and paralleled the anti-communist campaign known as McCarthyism and the Second Red Scare. Gay men and lesbians were said to be security risks and communist sympathizers, which led to the call to remove them from state employment.
Former U.S. Senator Alan K. Simpson has written: "The so-called 'Red Scare' has been the main focus of most historians of that period of time. A lesser-known element ... and one that harmed far more people was the witch-hunt McCarthy and others conducted against homosexuals."
The term for this persecution was popularized by David K. Johnson's 2004 book which studied this anti-homosexual campaign, The Lavender Scare. The book drew its title from the term "lavender lads", used repeatedly by Senator Everett Dirksen as a synonym for homosexual males. In 1952, Dirksen said that a Republican victory in the November elections would mean the removal of "the lavender lads" from the State Department. The phrase was also used by Confidential magazine, a periodical known for gossiping about the sexuality of politicians and prominent Hollywood stars.