The GIs of Gay Liberation: Vernon Berg and Leonard Matlovich vs. the U.S. Military
The idea of gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals as security risks susceptible to blackmail continued to be the most prevalent justification for their removal from federal employment and military service throughout the Cold War. The situation of Ensign Vernon “Copy” Berg, however, is inconsistent with this long-standing pattern. Following a five-month-long investigation into his life history and bisexual inclinations, which culminated in a personal interrogation by agents of the Naval Investigative Service, Berg received a temporary promotion and maintained his Top Secret security clearance for the remainder of his assignment aboard USS Little Rock. His continued access to sensitive material after his admission of bisexual behavior defied the accepted Cold War notion that gay, lesbian, and bisexual servicemembers were inherently criminal and, therefore, susceptible to foreign coercion and espionage. In “Queer in the Cold War,” Dr. Haley identifies three additional members of the gay male and bisexual communities—Dr. Franklin Kameny, Harvey Milk, and Tech. Sgt. Leonard Matlovich—as prominent active duty and dishonorably discharged servicemen as integral members of the fight for Gay Liberation in the 1970s. While Berg did not openly associate his fight to serve as an openly bisexual officer with the fight for Gay Liberation, his use of the media to garner public support warrants his placement among contemporary liberationists.
About this Lecture
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